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with an Introduction 

Christopher Isherwood 



IN 1948 

All rights rutrvtd 
Stcond Impression 1949 






INTRODUCTION by Christopher Ishcrwood I 

h Mysticism Escapism? by Gerald Heard 99 

The Minimum Working Hypothesis by Aldous Huxley 33 

Hypothesis and Belief by Christopher Ishcrwood 36 

What To?a Is by Swami Prabhavananda 41 

The Goal of Tog* by Swami Prabhavananda 47 

Vedtnta MS the Scientific Approach to Religion by Gerald Heard 51 

Dedication Ode by Frederick Manchester 56 

My Discoveries in Vedant* by Gerald Heard 59 

Divine Grace by Swami Prabhavananda 64 

Towards Meditation by Swami Yatwwarananda 71 

The Toga of Meditation by Swami Prabhavananda 80 

The Return to Ritual by Gerald Heard 89 

Religion and Temperament by Aldous Huxley 94 

Religion and Time by Aldous Huxley 103 

The Problem of EM by Swami Prabhavananda 1 10 

The Magical and the Spiritual by Aldous Huxley 1 1 a 

How to Integrate our Personality by Swami Yatiswarananda 1 16 

Distractions by Aldous Huxley 125 

Diyness and Dark Night by Gerald Heard 136 

Realize the Truth by Swami Yatiswarananda 142 

The Mystic Word OM by Swami Prabhavananda 149 

Power of the Word by Swami Adbhutananda 154 

Meditation by Swami Adbhutananda 157 

Brahman and Maya by Swami Adbhutananda 160 

Seven Meditations by Aldous Huxley 163 

Spiritual Maxims by Swami Shivananda 171 

Control of the Subconscious Mind by Swami Prabhavananda 174 

Thoughts by a Stream by Allan Hunter ' 182 

Prayer by John van Druten 184 

From a Notebook by Aldous Huxley 189 

Thoughts by George Fitts *93 

Warnings and Hints to the Spiritual Aspirant 195 

Swami Yatiswarananda 

Contents vi 


Renunciation and Austerity by Swami Prabhavananda 205 

On a Sentence from Shakespeare by Aldous Huxley 209 

/ Am Where I Have Always Been by John van Druten 212 

Samadhi by Swami Prabhavananda 216 

Chant the Name of the Lord by Sri Chaitanya 225 

An Unpublished lecture by Swami Vivekananda 227 

Sri Ramakrishna, Modern Spirit and Religion 

Swami Prabhavananda 241 

St. Francis and Sri Ramakrishna by Guido Ferrando 253 

Marriage of Sarada Devi by Amiya Corbin 261 

The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna by Christopher Wood 266 

Vivekananda and Sarah Bernhardt by Christopher Isherwood 268 

Man and Reality by Aldous Huxley 273 

Words and Reality by Aldous Huxley 278 

Some Aspects of Buddha's Thought by Swami Prabhavananda 283 

Buddha and Bergson by Swami Prabhavananda 288 

The Philosophia Perennis by Gerald Heard 294 

Reflections on the Lord's Prayer by Aldous Huxley 298 

Sermon on the Mount by Swami Prabhavananda 3 1 3 

Maya and Mortal Mind by John van Druten 350 

Martha by Amiya Corbin 354 

The Gita and War by Christopher Isherwood 358 

Action and Contemplation by Aldous Huxley 366 

Unknown Indian Influences by Gerald Heard 371 

Readings in Mysticism by Aldous Huxley 376 

Mysticism in the Theologia Germanica by Gerald Heard 383 

The Spiritual Message of Dante by Guido Ferrando 389 

Notes on Brother Lawrence by Gerald Heard 396 

Self-Surrender by Swami Prabhavananda 417 

The Churches, Humanism, Spirituality by Gerald Heard 423 

Idolatry by Aldous Huxley 427 

Is there Progess? by Gerald Heard 432 

God in Everything by Swami Prabhavananda 436 

The Future of Mankind's Religion by Gerald Heard 442 

The Tellow Mustard by Aldous Huxley 447 

The Wishing Tree by Christopher Isherwood 448 

Lints by Aldous Huxlev 452 



Vedanta is the philosophy of the Vedas, those Indian scrip 
tures which are the most ancient religious writings now 
known to the world. More generally speaking, the term 
"Vedanta" covers not only the Vedas themselves but the 
whole body of literature which explains, elaborates and com- 
ments upon their teaching, right down to the present day, 
The Bhagavad-Gita and the works of Shankara belong to 
Vedanta: so do many of the articles in this volume. 

Vedanta is often, but less correctly, called "Hinduism"; a 
foreign word. The inhabitants of India were described by the 
Persians as Hindus, because they lived on the other side of 
the River Sindhu (the Indus). The Persians, apparently, 
could not manage the sound of the letter S. 

In India today, as elsewhere, there are hundreds of sects. 
Vedanta Philosophy is the basis of them all. Indeed, in its 
simplest form, it may be regarded as a statement of the 
Philosophia Perennis, the least common denominator of all 
religious belief, which is defined by Aldous Huxley in his 
article, "The Minimum Working Hypothesis." 

Reduced to its elements, Vedanta Philosophy consists of 
three propositions. First, that Man's real nature is divine. 
Second, that the aim of human life is to realize this divine 
nature. Third, that all religions are essentially in agreement. 
We shall examine each of these in turn. 

"Man's real nature is divine*': what does this actually 
mean? Vedanta asserts that the universe which is perceived 
by our senses is only an appearance. It is not what it seems. 
Here, the modern scientist will, of course, agree. Who would 
ever suppose, in looking at a flower, a rock and a waterfall, 

VEDANTA For The Western World 2 

that each was merely a different arrangement of identical 
units? The universe is other than its outward aspect. More- 
over, this outward aspect is subject to perpetual change. The 
hills, said Tennyson, are shadows. 

Vedanta goes on to. assert that, beneath this appearance, 
this flux, there is an essential, unchanging Reality, which it 
calls Brahman, the Godhead. Brahman is Existence itself, 
Consciousness itself. Brahman is also said to be that almost 
indefinable quality which is called in the Sanskrit language 
"Ananda," and in the Christian Bible . . . "the peace of God, 
which passeth all understanding . . ." "Ananda" may be 
translated not only as "peace" but also as "bliss"; since this 
absolute peace, when it is known beneath all flux, appear- 
ance and unrest, must give the only permanent kind of 

At the mention of Brahman, the scientist will become 
sceptical. And rightly so; for none of his apparatus is capa- 
ble of detecting the existence of this fundamental Reality. 
Vedanta will reply that this proves nothing, either way. The 
scientist cannot possibly detect Brahman, because scientific 
analysis depends, necessarily, upon the evidence of the five 
senses, and Brahman is beyond all sense-perception. Why, it 
will be asked, should we believe with Vedanta instead of 
doubting with the scientist? But the answer to this question 
must be delayed for a moment, until we begin to consider 
the nature of the mystical experience. 

Let us assume, in the meanwhile, that Brahman does exist. 
If there is indeed an essential Reality, a Godhead, in the uni- 
verse, then it follows that this Reality must be omnipresent. 
It must be within each one of us; within every creature and 
object. It docs not matter exactly what we mean by "within": 
that is a point for theologians to argue. Let us say simply, at 
the risk of offending the exponents of semantics, that Brah- 
man is our real, essential nature. When speaking of Brahman- 
within-the-creature, Vedanta uses, for convenience, another 
term, "the Atman." The Atman, in Christian terminology, 
is God Immanent; Brahman is God Transcendent. Atinan 
and Brahman are one. 

And now, with the second of the Vedanta propositions, we 
come to most of our difficulties. The aim of human life, we 

3 Introduction 

are told, is to realize the Atman, our essential nature, and 
hence our identity with the one, underlying Reality. 

Why? How? Who says so? How does he know? 

In the first place, why? The answer to this question is by 
no means evident to the majority of people alive on earth 
today. Human life has many apparent aims: we can find them 
stated in the headlines and advertisements of any newspaper. 
Win the war. Win the peace. Get your man. Get a home. Get 
a better job. Become beautiful. Become strong. Become edu- 
cated. Such are our objectives. And millions strive for them, 
with the greatest courage and devotion, year after year. 

To seek to realize my essential nature is to admit that I 
am dissatisfied with my nature as it is at present. It is to ad- 
mit that I am dissatisfied with the kind of life I am leading 
now. But am I, honestly? Oh yes, we admit our faults. We 
admit that the political and economic condition of the world 
leaves much to be desired. But we are optimistic. We believe 
in patching up and muddling through. We are prepared to 
take the rough with the smooth. We have our moments of 
triumph, we enjoy periods of vivid happiness; and for these 
we are ready to pay, if we must, with spells of disappoint- 
ment, boredom, regret. On the whole, the majority of us are 
content. The great mass of normally healthy, well-adjusted 
men and women, absorbed in their families and their jobs, 
will protest: "Leave us alone. We are well enough off as we 

"Are you? We doubt it," say Buddha, Jesus, Shankara, 
Shakespeare and Tolstoy. And they proceed to point out, in 
their different languages and figures of speech, that death 
brings an end to all desire, that worldly wealth is a house 
built upon the sand, that the beautiful body is a decaying 
bag of filth, that ambition will be pricked like an inflated 
bladder, that our bustling activity resembles the antics of 
patients in a madhouse. Their words depress us: for the truth 
is obvious, if we consider it. But we do not wish to consider 
it. There is no time, we say. We are in the midst of whatever 
we are doing. Action is begetting action. To pause, to philos- 
ophize, seems feeble, cowardly, and even downright wicked. 
So we dismiss our prophets as pessimists, and their teaching 
as other worldly defeatism. We hurry away with a sigh, re- 

VEDANTA For The Western World 4 

solved to have our fun while we can, or, at any rate, to get on 
with the next job. 

But suppose I really am dissatisfied with my life and my- 
self. Suppose I have actually attained some of the world's 
advertised objectives, and found beyond them an emptiness, 
a teasing question which I cannot answer. I am confronted 
with Life's subtlest riddle: the riddle of human boredom. In 
my desperation, I am ready to assume, provisionally, that this 
Atman, this essential nature, does exist within me, arid does 
offer me a lasting strength, wisdom, peace and happiness. 
How am I to realize this nature? How am I to enjoy it? 

The answer is given, unanimously, by all the teachers and 
prophets. It is very disconcerting: 

"By ceasing to be yourself." 

"What do you mean? That's nonsense. How can I stop be- 
ing myself? I'm Christopher Isherwood, or I'm nothing." 

"You are the Atman." 

"Then why do I think I'm myself?" 

"Because of your ignorance. Christopher Isherwood is only 
an appearance, a part of the apparent universe. He is a con- 
stellation of desires and impulses. He reflects his environ- 
ment. He repeats what he has been taught. He mimics the 
social behaviour of his community. He copies gestures like a 
monkey and intonations like a parrot. All his actions are con- 
ditioned by those around him, however eccentric and in- 
dividual he may seem to be. He is subject to suggestion, cli- 
mate, disease and the influence of drugs. He is changing all 
the time. He has no essential reality." 

"How did this ignorance start? What caused it?" 

Here, the prophets will give slightly different answers. 
Buddha will refuse to discuss the question at all, saying that 
it is not important. When the house is burning, does it mat- 
ter if the man who fired it had red hair? It is only necessary 
that we should realize that the house 15 burning. Or, to put it 
more mildly, that we should be dissatisfied with our present 
condition and re?dy to do something about it. 

Christian theology will speak of Original Sin, and postulate 
a fall of Man from consciousness of his divine nature. Vedanta 
does not accept this idea. It conceives of a universe coexistent 
with Brahman, equally beginningless and endless. Even if 

5 Introduction 

this universe should apparently be destroyed, it will only 
have gone back into a kind of seed-state, a phase of potential- 
ity, from which, in- due time, it will re-emerge. Vedanta 
teaches that the stuff of this universe is an effect or power of 
Brahman. It stands to Brahman in the same relation as heat 
to fire. They are inseparable. Yet Brahman does not inter- 
vene in the world's affairs. The question "why does God 
permit evil?" is, to a Vedantist, as meaningless as "why does 
God permit good?" The fire burns one man and warms an- 
other, and is neither kind nor cruel. 

An inhuman philosophy? Certainly. Brahman is not hu- 
man. We must beware of thinking about the Reality in rela- 
tive terms. It is not simply a giant person. It has nothing to 
do with our shifting standards of good and evil, pleasure, 
unhappiness, right and wrong. 

"Very well: we'll forget about the cause of my ignorance. 
Now how do I stop being Christopher Isherwood?" 

"By ceasing to believe that you are. What is this belief? 
Egotism, nothing else: an egotism which is asserted and rein- 
forced by hundreds of your daily actions. Every time you 
desire, or fear, or hate; every time you boast or indulge your 
vanity; every time you struggle to get something for yourself, 
you are really asserting: 'I am a separate, unique individual. 
I stand apart from everything else in this universe/ But you 
don't, you know. The scientist will agree with me that you 
don't. Every living creature and every object are interrelated, 
biologically, psychologically, physically, politically, econom- 
ically. They are all of a piece." 

"So I merely have to stop believing I'm an individual?" 

"It isn't so easy. First, you must start acting as though you 
had ceased to believe it. Try to overcome this possessive atti- 
tude toward your actions. Stop taking credit for your suc- 
cesses. Stop bemoaning your failures, and making excuses for 
them. Stop worrying so much about results. Just do the best 
you can. Work for the work's sake. Think of your body, if 
you like, as an instrument." 

"Whose instrument?" 

"The instrument of the Atman." 

"Why should I work for the Atman? It doesn't need my 

VEDANTA For The Western World 6 

"There is no question of helping the Atman. All work 
done in this spirit is symbolic, like ritual. It becomes a form 
of worship." 

"How dull that sounds! Where's the inducement? What's 
the motive?" 


"You mean, I should love the Atman? How can I?" 

"You love Christopher Isherwood, don't you?" 

"Yes, I suppose so. Most of the time. When I don't hate 

"Then you ought to love your real Self much more. The 
Atman is perfect. Christopher Isherwood isn't." 

"But I know him. I've never seen the Atman. I'm not even 
sure it exists." 

"Try to feel that it exists. Think about it. Pray to it. Medi- 
tate on it. Know that you are it." 

"You mean, hypnotize myself?" 

"If it's nothing but auto-hypnosis, you'll soon find out. 
Hypnosis wouldn't give you any lasting results. It wouldn't 
give you the peace and understanding you are looking for. It 
wouldn't transform your character. Neither would alcohol, 
for that matter, or any other drug. I'm only asking you to 
try it. This is a matter for personal experiment," 

"All right. What else am I to do?" 

"Judge every thought and every action from this stand- 
point: 'Does it make me freer, less egotistic, more aware of 
the Reality; or does it attach me more tightly to the illusion 
of individual separateness?' You'll find, in practice, that cer- 
tain thoughts and actions obstruct your progress. Give them 
up. Other thoughts and actions will assist your progress. Cul- 
tivate them." 

"Tell me some." 

"Chastity, truthfulness, charity toward others." 

"Chastity? I'm to give up sex?" 

"You'll find you have to, sooner or later." 

"Why? It's not wrong." 

"I never said it was. But what does it lead to? Attachment 
to this world of appearance. An added conviction that you 
are Christopher Isherwood, not the Atman." 

7 Introduction 

"Oh, you just hate the world, that's alll" 

"It's you who hate the world, in your heart of hearts. You 
are bound to hate it, because you know only its appearance, 
and its appearance seems to end in death. But I see the Real- 
ity within the appearance. I see the world within Reality. 
And I love it as I love the Reality itself." 

"I must say, all this sounds very selfish. I'm to spend the 
rest of my life trying to know my real nature. Thinking about 
myself, in fact. What about my neighbours? Am I to forget 
them altogether? What about social service? What about my 
duty to the community?" 

4 'As soon as you start thinking and acting in the way I have 
shown you, your life will be nothing but social service. You 
will be more available to your neighbours than ever before, 
because you will be less egotistic. You will do your duty to 
the community far better, because your motives will be less 
mixed with vanity and the desire for power and self-adver- 
tisement. You think you love some of your neighbours now. 
You cannot dream how you will love them all, when you be- 
gin to see the Reality within each human being, and to un- 
derstand his absolute identity with yourself. What is it that 
your neighbour needs most? Isn't it just that reassurance, 
that knowledge and peace which are the objects of your 
search? How can you transmit them to others, until you have 
won them for yourself? By helping yourself, you are helpfng 
mankind. By helping mankind, you are helping yourself. 
That's the law of all spiritual progress." 

"Provided, of course, that the Reality exists." 

"The Reality does exist." 

"How do you know?" 

"Because I have experienced it." 

"Why should I believe you?" 

"Because you can experience it for yourself." 

There we have it, our greatest difficulty. There the scien- 
tist cannot help us. He only shrugs his shoulders and says 
"perhaps." The prophet tells us that he has seen God, and 
we have each of ui to make up our minds whether to believe 
him or not. (I have discussed this question more fully in my 
article: "Hypothesis and Belief.") 

VEDANTA For The Western World 8 

In order to be able to decide if the prophet is telling the 
truth or lying, we shall have to investigate the mystical ex- 
perience for ourselves. This can be done in two ways: from 
the outside, by studying the biographies and writings of the 
saints; and from the inside, by following the instructions 
they have given us. To follow these instructions is to lead 
what Christians call "the unitive life." In Sanskrit, the word 
for this unitive life is "Yoga," from which is derived our Eng- 
lish word "yoke/ 1 i.e., union. Yoga is the technique of union 
with the Atman. The various stages of Yoga are outlined in 
several of Swami Prabhavananda's articles. 

However we may choose to explain it, the historical fact 
remains that thousands of men and women, belonging to 
every century, country and social class, have attempted, with 
apparent success, to follow this unitive way of life. Accord- 
ing to the evidence of their contemporaries, they have under- 
gone that slow, strange transformation, that inner process of 
readjustment, which ends in what is called sainthood. Hun- 
dreds of them, Christian, Vedantist, Buddhist, Taoist, Sufi 
and Jew, have left records of their experience; and these rec- 
ords show remarkable similarity. Remarkable, because the 
saints themselves are so very different. Some are devotional 
in the extreme: they worship the Reality in human form, a 
Krishna, a Rama, a Christ, with ecstasies of love. Some medi- 
tate on the impersonal Brahman, with the seeming coldness 
of pure discrimination, bowing before no altar or image. 
Some have visions. Some have powers over material nature, 
and can heal the sick. Some live in caves or cells: some in 
crowded cities. Some are great orators: some refuse to utter a 
word. Some are laughed at and believed to be mad: some are 
respected for their qualities of clear judgment and sanity. 
Some are martyred. 

It is upon the natifre of the final mystical experience that 
all agree. What is this experience? It seems that when the 
ego-sense has, through constant self-discipline, grown very 
weak, there comes a moment (it may be the moment of death) 
at which the presence of the essential nature is no longer 
concealed. The saint becomes aware that the Atman actually 
does exist. Further, he experiences the nature of the Atman 
as his own nature. He knows he is nothing but Reality. This 

9 Introduction 

is what Christian writers call "the mystic union" and Vedan 
lists "samadhi." 

We have been told that the Reality is beyond sense-percep- 
tion. How, then, can it be experienced? This is a very diffi- 
cult question. Perhaps it cannot be answered in words. 
Samadhi is said to be a fourth kind of consciousness: it is be* 
yond the states of waking, dreaming and dreamless sleep. 
Those who have witnessed it as an external phenomenon 
report that the experiencer appeared to have fallen into a 
kind of trance. The hair of the head and body stood erect. 
The half-closed eyes became fixed. Sometimes there was an 
astonishing loss of weight, or even levitation of the body 
from the ground. But these are mere symptoms, and tell us 
nothing. There is only one way to find out what samadhi is 
like: you must have it yourself. 

Vedanta's third proposition, that all religions are essen- 
tially in agreement, needs less discussion. But it is psycholog- 
ically very important. Being a philosophy rather than a creed, 
Vedanta is not sectarian and therefore not exclusive. It ap- 
peals, as it were, over the heads of the sectarians and dogma- 
tists, to the practising mystics of all religions. Also, by classi- 
fying the sects themselves as different paths of Yoga leading 
to the same goal, it seeks to establish a sort of religious syn- 
thesis. Tolerance is, in any case, natural to the Indian tem- 
perament. But, unfortunately, it cannot be claimed that this 
unifying effort has, so far, been very successful. Vedanta may 
accept Christ as the Son of God: it may acknowledge Allah. 
But Christians and Mohammedans persist in regarding their 
respective religions as the only true faith. Christian and Sufi 
mystics have been compelled, by the very nature of their 
mystical experience, to take a more liberal attitude. In con- 
sequence, they have often been suspected of heresy and some- 
times actually condemned by their co-religionists. 

Nor does the Vedantist, in expressing his reverence for 
Allah and Christ, mean quite what orthodox Mohammedans 
and Christians would like him to mean. Vedanta, as I have 
said already, offers a philosophical basis to all sects. It can do 
this precisely because it is fundamentally monistic; because 
it teaches that there is one Reality and nothing else. "Thou 
art That." The creature is the Atman: the Atman is Brah- 

VEDANTA For The Western World 10 

man. The creature, in his ignorance, may think that he wor- 
ships the creator. Very well: let him think that. It is a neces- 
sary stage in spiritual progress. The ultimate truth cannot 
be apprehended all at once. The Atman must be personified 
at first, if it is to be loved and realized; otherwise it will re- 
main a mere intellectual abstraction. The true monist never 
disdains dualism. But it is very hard for the rigid dualist to 
accept monism. St. Ignatius Loyola was dismayed when the 
vision of his beloved Jesus faded into the impersonal, all- 
embracing Reality. 

The Indian mind, because it is fundamentally monistic, 
has no difficulty in believing that the one impersonal Brah- 
man may have an infinite number of personal aspects. As 
many, indeed, as there are worshippers; since an aspect is 
literallv a view, and each traveller may s^e a different angle 
of a mountain. These aspects are represented in Indian art, 
sculpture and literature with such a wealth of form and at- 
tribute that the Western foreigner, whose religious mentality 
is dualistic, is apt to mistake them for gods and goddesses in 
the pagan sense, and to exclaim indignantly that this is 
polytheism. Hence, much misunderstanding arises. 

According to Vedanta, the Reality may also take human 
form and enter the world, from time to time. Why it should 
do this is a mystery which no amount of philosophical anal- 
ysis can solve. It is the paradox which we call Grace, ex- 
pressed in its most startling terms. The Reality is manifested, 
occasionally, amidst the temporal phenomena. Brahman does, 
after all, sometimes intervene. As Sri Krishna says in the 

"/n every age I come back 
To deliver the holy, 
To destroy the sin of the sinner. 
To establish righteousness." 

The Vedantist calls such incarnations of the Reality "ava- 
tars." He recognizes Rama, Krishna, Buddha and Christ as 
avatars, along with several others, and believes that there will 
be many more. But the Christian, convinced of the unique- 
ness of Christ as a spiritual phenomenon, can hardly be ex- 
pected to subscribe to this belief. 

1 1 Introduction 

What follows samadhi? What happens to the few who at- 
tain it, and to the hundreds of millions who don't? 

This brings us to the hypothesis of Karma and Reincarna- 
tion. I use the word "hypothesis" deliberately, because I am 
writing for Western and, I hope, intelligently sceptical read- 
ers. It is my business to describe, not to dogmatize. Here is 
one explanation of the known facts of our human experience. 
You can accept or reject it. But, unless you understand its 
main propositions, the literature of Vedanta will scarcely be 
intelligible to you. 

Philosophically, Karma and Reincarnation are inseparable. 
Nevertheless, they have been separated, by the leaders of the 
many esoteiic cults in Europe and America which have 
brought Indian thought into such discredit, and made the 
word "Yoga" synonymous with dishonest mystery-mongering 
and the exploitation of the superstitious. We have all met 
the lady who likes to believe that she has lived through previ- 
ous births as Marie Antoinette, Cleopatra, or a jnriestess in 
an Egyptian temple. The character chosen is invariably 
glamorous, beautiful, distinguished, tragic. No cultist would 
ever admit to a former existence as an ordinary housewife, a 
small tradesman, or a cook. Here, the idea of Reincarnation, 
unconditioned by Karma, floats in a romantic, meaningless 
void. It is a convenient daydream for the escapist. 

"Karma" means action, work, a deed. Not only physical 
action, conscious or reflex, but also mental action, conscious 
or subconscious. Karma is everything that we think or do. 
Philosophically speaking, Karm^ ^Un pri^ng frh* T -* "f 
Causationj_a ]a\y wh^ h * *fi to operate in the physical, 
nientaTand moral spheres of our lives. 

I do an action; I think a thought. The Vedantist tells me 
that this action and this thought, even though they be ap- 
parently over and done with, will inevitably, sooner or later, 
produce some effect. This effect may be pleasant, unpleasant, 
or a mixture of both. It may be long delayed. I may never 
notice it. I may have altogether forgotten the action or the 
thought which caused it. Nevertheless, it will be produced. 

Furthermore, every action and every thought makes an im- 
pression upon the mind. This impression may be slight at 
first; but, if the same action or thought is repeated, it will 

VEDANTA For the Western World 12 

deepen into a kind of groove, down which our future be- 
haviour will easily tend to run. These mental grooves we 
call our tendencies. Their existence makes it possible to pre- 
dict fairly accurately just how each of us will behave in any 
given situation. In other words, the sum of our karmas repre- 
sents our character. As fresh karmas are added and previous 
karmas exhausted or neutralized, our character changes. 

So much is self-evident. But now comes the question: 
where does Karma begin? Are we all born equal? Do we all 
start life with the same chances of failure or success? Why 
Shakespeare? Why the mongolian idiot? Why the ordinary 
man in the street? Is there any justice at all? 

There seem to be three possible answers to this problem. 
The first is the simplest: "No, there is no justice. Heredity 
and the accident of environment account entirely for your 
condition at birth. No doubt, you can improve your situation 
to some extent, along the lines of your inherited capacities 
and with the help of a good education. But there is a limit. 
Shakespeare was very lucky. The idiot is extremely unfortu- 

The second answer is more or less as follows: "Certainly, 
there is inequality, but there is justice, also. Life is a handi- 
cap race. To whom much was given, from him much will be 
expected. Shakespeare had better make good use of his talent. 
As for the idiot, as for cripples and the poor, let them be 
patient. After this life, there will be another, in which each 
will be judged, punished and rewarded according to his 

This answer rightly infuriates the socialist, who exclaims: 
"What hypocrisyl What religious opium! Clean up your 
slums, establish prenatal clinics, provide free education, 
share the profits of industry. Never mind your promise of 
justice in heaven. Let's have justice here on earth/* 

The third answer is the one given by Vedanta. It is more 
complex, but also more logical than the second, more optimis- 
tic than the first. "I quite agree," says the Vedantist, "that 
existence continues after death. I agree that our actions in 
this life will condition the circumstances of that existence, 
since the Law of Karma will not cease to operate. I don't 
know why you limit yourselves to two lives. I foresee thou- 

1 3 Introduction 

sands. Lives on this earth, and lives elsewhere. I believe that 
an accumulation of very good karma will cause the individual 
to be reborn in what may be described as "heaven," and that 
very bad karma will place him in a sort of "hell." Only, my 
heaven and my hell have a time-limit, like life in the world. 
When the good or bad karma is exhausted, the individual 
will be reborn here on earth. I say this because I believe 
that human life has a peculiarity: it is the only condition in 
which one can create fresh karma. Elsewhere one merely 
enjoys or suffers the karmic effects of one's earthly actions. 
The socialist may disapprove of my attitude, but I thoroughly 
approve of his activity. I do not believe that it can produce 
any permanent material improvement in this world; but it 
is spiritually constructive, and that is all that finally matters. 
Right action is the language of spiritual progress. 

"You claim that this particular birth was your beginning. 
I don't see why. Philosophically, your position is awkward, 
because it compels you to believe that the condition of the 
idiot and the genius of Shakespeare are due to the justice or 
injustice of some external Power. God is supposed to bind 
one man and free another, and then tell them both to make 
the best of it. Why blame God? Why not say that the idiot is 
an idiot because of his past actions in previous lives? It may 
sound brutal, but it is much more consistent. Don't misun- 
derstand me: I am not denying heredity. I believe that hered- 
ity operates. But I also believe that the sum of our karmas 
compels us to be born into a certain kind of family, under 
certain physical and economic conditions. You may ask: 
'Who would choose to be an idiot?' I reply: 'Who would 
choose to be a cocaine-addict?' Our thoughts and actions, ap- 
parently so harmless, create these appalling tendencies; and 
the tendencies are finally too strong for us." 

The Vedantist has finished, and we can begin to heckle 

"If we had past lives, why can't we remember them?" 

"Can you remember exactly what you did this time yester- 
day? Can you remember what it felt like to be sitting on 
your mother's lap at the age of eighteen months? As a matter 
of fact, there is a Yoga technique of concentration which is 
supposed to enable you to recall your previous existences. 

V ED ANT A For 7 he Western World 14 

I'm not asking you to believe this. You would have to try it 
for yourself, and it would be a stupid waste of time. If you 
want a working hypothesis which sounds scientific, can't you 
simply assume that we suffer a kind of amnesia? After all, 
birth i? a terrible shock." 

"How do you account for the fact that Karma ever started 
at all?" 

"I can't. I only say, as I have said already, that the phe- 
nomenal universe is beginningless and endless, coexistent 
with the Reality. The Law of Karma was always in operation. 
It always will be." 

"Then we just go up and down, getting better, getting 
worse, for ever? ' 

"Certainly not. The individual can escape from Karma at 
any given moment, as soon as he realizes that he is the Atman. 
The Atman is not subject to reincarnation. It stands beyond 
Karma. It is only the individual ego which passes from life 
to life. E\ery individual will realize this, sooner or later. He 
must. The Atman within him will draw him to itself." 

"And then?" 

"When samadhi has been attained, the Law of Karma 
ceases to operate. No new karmas can be created. The lib- 
erated saint may live on in his human body for a while, just as 
a wheel goes on revolving after its motive power has stopped. 
But he will never be reborn, either in this world, or in any 
other karmic sphere. He will remain in the Atman. As an 
individual, he will have ceased to exist." 

"What happens when everybody has attained samadhi? 
Won't the supply of individuals run out? Won't the universe 

"No. The ego-sense, which is the basis of individuality, will 
continue to work its way upward, through inanimate matter, 
through plant-life, through the lower animals, into human 
form and consciousness. . . . But how can we discuss these 
things? We stumble over our own words. The universe is an 
illusion. Our essential nature is Reality. We are never sepa- 
rated from it for an instant. The concept of Karma is only 
valuable insofar as it reminds us of the extraordinary im- 
portance of our every thought and action, and of our im- 
mense responsibility toward each other. . . . We have talked 

1 5 Introduction 

enough. Now do something. Start to practice Yoga. Try to 
realize the Atman. All your questions will ultimately be an- 
swered. All your doubts will gradually disappear." 

During the late middle years of the nineteenth century, 
there lived, in a temple garden at Dakshineswar, a few miles 
outside Calcutta, the man who is, perhaps, Vedanta's greatest 
human exemplar. His name was Sri Ramakrishna. 

He had come to the city as a sixteen-year-old boy, to join 
his elder brother, who was a priest. When the two of them 
moved out to Dakshineswar, Ramakrishna himself took up 
priestly duties in the Kali temple. Kali symbolizes Reality as 
the Mother of the universe, Giver of life and of death. Be- 
cause of her dual aspect, she is the most misunderstood figure 
in Indian mythology. "How can you ask us/' exclaims the for- 
eigner, "to accept a Mother who is also a Destroyer? What a 
horrible parody of motherhood! Look at her; distributing 
boons with one hand while the other holds a sword!" Yet 
Kali embodies a profound spiritual truth. She teaches us to 
look beneath the appearances of Life. We must not cling to 
what seems beautiful and pleasant; we must not shrink from 
what seems ugly and horrible. The same Brahman underlies 
all experience. When we have learned to regard death and 
disaster as our Mother, we shall have conquered every fear. 

Ramakrishna understood this. His intense devotion soon 
began to attract the attention of those who met him. The 
formidable stone image of the goddess was to him a living 
presence. He talked and joked with her, adored and re- 
proached her with the freedom of perfect innocence and the 
candid faith which makes blasphemy a meaningless word. 
Kali was his own Mother, he was her Son. Why would she 
not reveal herself to him? "Oh Mother," he wept, "another 
day has passed and I have not seen you!" 

His ardor was rewarded by a vision. But he was not satis- 
fied. Desiring perpetual awareness of Kali's presence, he 
entered upon a period of severe austerities, passing weeks and 
months in almost unbroken meditation. Religious fervour is 
not considered unhealthy or abnormal in India, even by the 
layman, but Ramakrishna's ecstasies were so extreme that 
fears were expressed for his sanity. He particularly scandal- 

VEDANTA For The Western World 16 

ised the temple attendants by giving some consecrated food 
to a cat. Why not? Mother was in everything. After a while, 
he ceased to officiate as a priest. But he remained at Dak- 
shineswar until the last year of his life. 

Gradually, his fame spread. Two celebrated pundits visited 
him, discussed his visions and subjected them to elaborate 
theological analysis. At length, both the great scholars sol- 
emnly declared that, in their opinion, the young man was an 
avatar, an incarnation of the ultimate Reality. Ramakrishna 
received this staggering announcement with childlike indif- 
ference and a certain sly humour. "Just fancy," he remarked: 
"Well, I'm glad it's not a disease. . . . But, believe me, I 
know nothing about it." 

The dualist's approach to God may correspond, in type, to 
any one of our earthly relationships: it may be that of the 
servant, the child, the parent, the husband, the lover or the 
friend. As the years passed, Ramakrishna explored them all. 
It is easy enough to write these words, but almost impossible 
to imagine, even faintly, what such an undertaking would 
involve. Here is a complete sublimation of Life, in every 
aspect: a transposition, as it were, of the entire human experi- 
ence into another key. Perhaps the nature of Ramakrishna's 
achievement can best be hinted at if we compare it with that 
of Shakespeare or Tolstoy in the sphere of art. Beside these 
masters, the intuition of lesser writers seems partial and re- 
stricted; it can only function along certain narrow lines. The 
essence of spiritual, as of artistic greatness is in its universal- 
ity. The minor saint knows one way of worship only. Rama- 
krishna's genius embraced the whole of mystical realization. 

Nothing now remained but the supreme monistic experi- 
ence, the union with impersonal Reality. In 1864, a monk 
named Totapuri came to Dakshineswar, to instruct Rama- 
krishna in this highest truth, the Brahman which is beyond 
all forms and aspects. The lesson was a hard one, even for 
such a pupil. Again and again, as he tried to meditate, the 
figure of his adoied Kali rose before him, creating the illu- 
sion of duality. At last, Totapuri picked up a piece of glass 
from the ground, stuck it between Ramakrishna's eyebrows 
and told him to fix his mind on that point. "When Mother 
appeared," Ramakrishna said later, "I drew the sword of 

1 7 Introduction 

discrimination and cut her in half." For three days, he re- 
mained absorbed in samadhi. 

To most mystics, samadhi comes as the crowning attainment 
of a lifetime: for Ramakrishna, it was only the beginning 
of a new phase of experience. Established in the knowl- 
edge of Reality, he was now able to regard the entire phe- 
nomenal universe sub specie aeternitatis, seeing in all matter 
and circumstance the play of the divine Power. He loved the 
world, as only the illumined saint can love it. Kali, Shiva, 
Rama and Krishna, the personal aspects and incarnations of 
the impersonal Brahman, were still his constant companions. 
He did not deny duality; but now he knew it in its true 
relation to the unity of the Absolute. He lived always on the 
threshold of transcendental consciousness, and the least word 
or hint was sufficient to raise his mind into oneness with the 
Eternal. An English boy watching a balloon happened to 
cross his legs in the attitude of the young Krishna; a lecturer 
with a telescope talked of the heavenly bodies; the sight of a 
lion at the zoo suggested the traditional mount of the Divine 
Mother and Ramakrishna was in samadhi at once. It was 
necessary to accompany him everywhere, or he might have 
fallen to the ground and been injured. Once, in an un- 
guarded moment of ecstasy, he did fall and dislocated a bone 
in his arm. 

His appetite for spiritual experience in all its forms was 
insatiable. "Cake tastes nice," he used to say, "whichever 
way you eat it." In 1866, we find him practising the dis- 
ciplines of Islam, dressing as a Mussulman, and repeating 
the name of Allah, under the direction of a Mohammedan 
teacher. Eight years later, he became fascinated by the per- 
sonality of Jesus. The Bible was read aloud to him. He 
went into ecstasy before a painting of the Madonna and 
Child. One day, while he was walking in the temple garden, 
the figure of Christ approached him, embraced him, and 
was merged into his own body. 

At the age of twenty-three, Ramakrishna had been be- 
trothed, to please his Mother and in conformity with ancient 
Indian custom, to Saradamani, a little girl of five. In 1872, 
Saradamani, now eighteen years old, came to join her hus- 
band at Dakshineswar. The idea of a sexual union was utterly 

VEDANTA For the Western World 18 

repugnant to Ramakrishna's nature; and Sarada, herself a 
saint in the making, gladly agreed to their monastic relation- 
ship. When the day came round for the worship of Kali, 
Ramakrishna did homage to his wife as an embodiment of 
the Divine Mother. (This incident is described in Amiya 
Corbin's story.) Sarada outlived her husband by many years. 
She became the spiritual Mother of the Ramakrishna Order. 

During the last ten years of Ramakrishna's life, a number 
of disciples began to gather round him. Some of these were 
famous men, such as Girish Ghosh, Bengal's most distin- 
guished dramatist, and Keshab Sen, the religious leader and 
social reformer. Others were schoolboys in their teens: the 
future monks who were to preach his message throughout 
India, and to carry it overseas. There were also many women. 

In 1882, the circle of visitors to Dakshineswar was joined 
by Mahendranath Gupta, headmaster of a Calcutta high- 
school. To Mahendranath's devotion and unusually retentive 
memory we owe a record which is almost unique in the lit- 
erature of religious biography. From the day of his first visit, 
Mahendranath (or "M," as he modestly signed himself) began 
to write down everything which was said and done in his 
presence by Ramakrishna and his disciples. The result is a 
very large volume, known in English as "The Gospel of Sri 
Ramakrishna." Its most recent, and only complete, transla- 
tion is by Swarni Nikhilananda, of the Ramakrishna Center 
in New York. I have referred to it extensively in writing these 

As we read M's book, we can begin to form some mental 
picture of a saint's daily life. It is certainly very strange; and, 
in this particular case, doubly remote from our experience. 
Firstly, because, as ordinary unregeneiate human beings, our 
own behaviour has an entirely different frame of reference; 
secondly, because the cultural background itself is alien and 

The Dakshineswar temple garden was, of course, a strong- 
hold of tradition and religious orthodoxy. Yet its northern 
wall was bounded, symbolically enough, by a powder maga- 
zine belonging to the British Government; and the nearby 
city of Calcutta was the center of Western influence in India. 
Nearly all Ramakrishna's followers were men who had come 

1 9 Introduction 

into some contact with European ideas. Keshab advocated 
the abolition of the caste-system and of child-marriage; and 
he had been to England, where he was the guest of Queer* 
Victoria. Even M would quote English philosophers and 
expound the latest discoveries of modern science. 

Amidst these ideological contrasts sat Ramakrishna: the 
living embodiment of a wisdom that transcended and recon- 
ciled them all. Mother is everywhere. What else, on this 
earth, do we need to know? In the presence of his smiling 
certainty, the scholar and the reformer became silent; their 
own doubts and anxieties ceased. One is reminded of another 
great prophet who lived as a member of a subject race within 
a vast imperial system; but the parallel is misleading. Nobody 
ever asked Ramakrishna to head a nationalist movement, or 
to decide whether it is right to pay tribute to Caesar. His life 
was happier than that of the Galilean. Its very significance is 
in its quietness, its utter lack of external drama. Calcutta was 
at his doorstep; yet there were probably not a dozen English- 
men who were even aware of his existence. 

Ramakrishna could scarcely read or write. But he knew the 
Scriptures by heart and quoted them continually, with the 
comments of his own unique experience. His talk was a blend 
of sublime subtlety and homely illustration. He spoke with a 
slight stammer, in a country dialect, sometimes using coarse, 
vivid words with the innocent frankness of a peasant. Most 
of his parables are based upon the everyday circumstances of 
village life and the folklore of the people. A man of faith 
is compared to well-boiled sugar; a monk to a snake, which 
seldom stays long in one place and has no hole of its own. 
Greed and lust are likened to moisture in wood; they must 
be dried out by the flame of discrimination before the fire 
will burn. We are to walk through the world like the girl 
who carries five water-pots on her head, never losing her 

The few existing photographs of Ramakrishna show us a 
slender, bearded man of medium height. They were taken 
while he was in samadhi; the lips are parted and the eyes 
half closed. In one picture he stands supported by a devotee, 
with the right arm raised and two fingers of the left hand 
rigidly extended; an attitude which somehow suggests the 

VEDANTA For The Western World 2O 

concentration of an intense, mysterious delight. The figure 
has an eager poise, a childlike unselfconsciousness. There is 
no trace of egotism here; no hint of a desire to dominate, to 
fascinate, to create an impression. What attracts us is pre- 
cisely that absence of demand, that joyful openness, in a face 
which seems to promise the love that makes no reservations, 
and is without pathos or fear. 

He was always smiling, laughing, crying aloud in his joy. 
Those who visited him felt as if they had arrived at a party 
which never stopped. A really happy party has no sense of 
past or future: life at Dakshineswar was lived in a perpetual 
present tense. The awareness of God's presence was always 
here and now. Sometimes there would be animated discus- 
sion. Sometimes musicians came, and Ramakrishna sang and 
danced, or clowned to amuse the boys. Often, he passed into 
samadhi, and the little room was filled with ecstasy and 

The experience of samadhi is, literally, a death to the 
things of this world. It is said that the body of an ordinary 
human being could not survive it for more than a few weeks. 
Ramakrishna had entered samadhi daily for many years. In 
the process, his whole physical organism had been trans- 
formed: it was extraordinarily sensitive and delicate. One 
night, in 1885, he had a hemorrhage of the throat. The doctor 
diagnosed cancer. 

That autumn, he was moved into Calcutta, for better nurs- 
ing. Despite his weakness and terrible pain, he continued to 
teach his disciples, to laugh, to joke and to sing. One of his 
attendants has even expressed a belief that Ramakrishna was 
not suffering at all. The eyes of the saint regarded the wasting 
body with a kind of calm, secret amusement, as though this 
horrible disease were only a masquerade. 

His disciples begged him to pray that he might recover; 
for their sake, if not for his own. At last, Ramakrishna agreed 
to do so. A little later, he told them: "I said to Her: 'Mother, 
I can't swallow food because of my pain. Make me able to 
eat a little. 9 But she pointed to you and said: 'What? Aren't 
you eating enough through all those mouths?' I was ashamed. 
I couldn't say another word." 

Toward the end, his chief concern was for the future of 

2 1 Introduction 

his young disciples. Two he had especially loved. One of 
them, later to be known as Swami Brahmananda, he re- 
garded as his own spiritual son. The other, Naren (after- 
wards Swami Vivekananda), he had trained to be the bearer 
of his message to the world. 

One day, while Ramakrishna lay in the last stage of his 
illness, Naren was in a downstair room, meditating. Sud- 
denly, he lost consciousness, and went into samadhi. At first, 
the experience terrified him. Coming to himself, he cried 
"Where is my body?" Another of the boys saw him, and ran 
upstairs in a fright to tell Ramakrishna. "Let him stay that 
way for a while/' said the Master, calmly. "He has worried 
me long.enough." 

Much later, Naren himself came into Ramakrishna's room. 
He was full of delight and peace. "Now Mother has shown 
you everything," said Ramakrishna. "But I shall keep the 
key. When you have done Mother's work, you will find the 
treasure again." 

On August isth, 1886, Ramakrishna uttered the name of 
Kali three times, in a clear ringing voice, and passed into the 
final samadhi. At noon, next day, the doctor found that life 
had left his body. There is a photograph, taken that same 
evening, in which we see the mourners grouped around the 
corpse before its removal to the cremation-ground. The 
young faces are all sombre and meditative, but there is no 
sign of frantic grief or despair. The disciples were worthy of 
their Master. Their faith seems never to have left them, even 
at this supreme moment of loss. Not long after, they resolved 
unanimously to enter the monastic life. And thus the group 
was formed which afterwards became the Ramakrishna Order. 

The boys had little money and few friends. Their first 
monastery was a tumbledown old house, midway between 
Calcutta and Dakshineswar, with nests of cobras under the 
floor, which could be rented cheaply because it was supposed 
to be haunted. Here they lived, and often starved, in medita- 
tion and ecstasy. M, who went to visit them, marvelled at 
their joy. So vivid was their awareness of Ramakrishna's pres- 
ence that they could even joke about him. M records how, 
one evening, Vivekananda mimicked the Master going into 
samadhi, while his brother-monks roared with laughter. 

VEDANTA For The Western World 22 

Vivekananda and Brahmananda (or "Swamiji" and 
"Maharaj," as they were more familiarly called) were the 
group's natural leaders. The two had been friends from early 
boyhood; both were now twenty-three years old. Handsome 
and athletic, Vivekananda was the embodiment of physical 
and intellectual energy; impulsive, ardent, sceptical, im- 
patient of all hypocrisy, conservatism or sloth. His faith had 
not come to him easily. He had questioned Ramakrishna at 
every step, and would accept nothing on trust, without the 
test of personal experience. Well-read in western philosophy 
and science, and inspired by the reformist doctrines of 
Keshab Sen, he brought to his religious life that most valu- 
able quality, intelligent doubt. If he had never visited Dak- 
shineswar, he might well have become one of India's fore- 
most national leaders. 

Brahmananda is a more mysterious figure. Few knew him 
intimately, and those few confessed to the inadequacy of 
their knowledge. He was a very great mystic and saint. His 
wisdom and his love seemed superhuman. His brother-dis- 
ciples did not hesitate to compare him to Ramakrishna him- 
self. "Whatever Maharaj tells you," said one of them, "comes 
directly from God." Brahmananda was elected head of the 
Raraakrishna Order in 1902, and held that office until the 
end of his life, in 1922. I refer the reader to the excellent 
biographical essay by his disciple, Swami Prabhavananda, in 
"The Eternal Companion." 

For seven years, the young monks wandered all over India, 
visiting shrines and places of pilgrimage, passing months of 
meditation in lonely huts, preaching, begging. Sometimes, 
they were royally entertained by wealthy devotees. More 
often, they shared the rice and the hard bread of tfye very 
poor. These experiences were especially valuable toi Vive- 
kananda. They gave him a standard of comparison, a true 
picture of India's hunger and wisdom, her economic misery 
and deep spiritual culture, which he carried with him on his 
journey to the West. 

In 1893, a Parliament of Religions was to be held at the 
World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Vivekananda was 
anxious to attend it, and his disciples and friends raised the 

2 3 Introduction 

money for the passage. What followed was a typically Indian 
comedy of errors. He arrived much too early in the United 
States. His funds ran out. He lost the address of his Chicago 
hosts, did not know how to use the telephone or the directory, 
and spent the night sleeping in a box in the freight-yards. 
Next morning, after much walking, he found himself in a 
fashionable residential district, without a cent in his pocket. 
There seemed no point in going any further. He sat down on 
the sidewalk and resigned himself to the will of God. Pres- 
ently, a door opened, and a well-dressed lady came out. "Sir," 
she asked, "are you a delegate to the Parliament of Reli- 
gions?" A few minutes later, he was sitting down to breakfast, 
with all his difficulties solved. 

The other delegates to the Parliament were prominent 
men, admirably representative of their respective creeds. 
Vivekananda, like his Master, was unknown. For this very 
reason, his magnificent presence created much speculation 
among the audience. When he rose to speak, his first words, 
"Sisters and Brothers of America," released one of those mys- 
terious discharges of enthusiasm which seem to be due to an 
exactly right conjunction of subject, speaker and occasion. 
People rose from their seats and cheered for several minutes. 
Vivekananda's speech was short, and not one of his best; but, 
as an introduction, it was most effective. Henceforward, he 
was one of the Parliament's outstanding personalities. The 
newspapers took him up. Invitations to lecture began to 
come in from all over the country. It was clear that he would 
have to remain in the United States for some time. 

In those days, a foreign lecturer touring America found 
himself in a position midway between that of a campaigning 
politician and a circus performer. He had to face the rough- 
and-tumble of indiscreet publicity, well-meant but merciless 
curiosity, reckless slander, crude hospitality, endless noise 
and hurry and fuss. Vivekananda was surprisingly well- 
equipped for all these trials. He was outspoken, quick at 
repartee, dynamic, witty and courageous. Above all, he was 
a true monk; and only a monk could have preserved his inner 
calm amidst such a tumult. On one occasion, a party of cow- 
boys fired pistols around his head during a lecture, for a 
joke. Vivekananda went on imperturbably. He said what he 

VEDANTA For <The Western World 24 

had to say, whether the audience liked it or not. "In New 
York," he used to remark, "I have emptied entire halls." 

His main theme was the universality of religious truth, a 
dangerous topic in communities which still clung to a rigid 
Christian fundamentalism. To such listeners, the doctrine of 
the Atman must have sounded like the most appalling 
blasphemy: "Look at the ocean and not at the wave; see no 
difference between ant and angel. Every worm is the brother 
of the Nazarene. . . . Obey the Scriptures until you are strong 
enough to do without them. . . . Every man in Christian 
countries has a huge cathedral on his head, and on top of that 
a book. . . . The range of idols is from wood and stone to 
Jesus and Buddha. . . ." Vivekananda is preeminently the 
prophet of self-reliance, of courage, of individual enquiry 
and effort. His favourite story was of the lion who imagined 
himself to be a sheep, until another lion showed him his 
reflection in a^pool. "You are lions, you are pure, infinite and 
perfect souls. The might of the universe is within you. . . * 
After long searches here and there, at last you come back, 
completing the circle from where you started, and find that 
He, for whom you have been weeping and praying in 
churches and temples, on whom you were looking as the 
mystery of all mysteries shrouded in the clouds, is nearest of 
the near, your own Self, the reality of your life." 

Vivekananda really loved America: that was part of his 
greatness. As few men, before or since, he stood between East 
and West impartially, admiring the virtues and condemning 
the defects of both. To Americans and Englishmen, he 
preached India's religious tolerance, her freedom of spiritual 
investigation, her ideal of total dedication to the search for 
God. To Indians, he spoke severely of their sloth, their timid 
conservatism in manners and customs, and held up for their 
imitation the efficiency of the American and the English- 
man's energy and tenacity. "You have not the capacity to 
manufacture a needle and you dare to criticize the English! 
Fools! sit at their feet and learn their arts and industries. . . . 
Without the necessary preparation, what's the use of just 
shouting in Congress?" With himself, he was equally ruth- 
less. Some friends once unkindly tricked him into eating 
beef. When he discovered that he had done so, his involun- 

25 Introduction 

tary disgust was so extreme that he vomited. "But I must 
overcome this ridiculous prejudice," he exclaimed, a few 
moments later. And he asked for a second helping. 

In 1897, after two visits to England, he returned to India, 
where he witnessed the founding of the Ramakrishna Order, 
with its headquarters in Calcutta, and the establishment of 
several other monasteries. His progress through the country 
was triumphal; and his achievements in the West, real as 
they were, were wildly exaggerated by the enthusiasm of his 
Indian disciples. Yet, amidst all this adulation, Vivekananda 
never lost his emotional balance. Again and again, he paid 
homage to Brahmananda, whose spirituality was the inner 
strength of the movement and the inspiration of its growth. 
The relation between these two men, the ardent missionary 
and the calm, taciturn mystic remained deep and beautiful 
throughout their lives. 

In 1899, Vivekananda returned to America. His second 
visit was less spectacular than his first; it was concerned 
chiefly with the development of small groups and the train- 
ing of devotees in different parts of the country. But it made 
great demands upon his already failing strength. He came 
back to India by way of England and Europe at the end of 
1900, sick and exhausted. His mood, too, had changed. He 
was weary of talk, of letter-writing, of the endless problems 
of organization. He was weary of activity. He longed for the 
Himalayas, and the peace of meditation. Through much 
struggle, he had learned resignation and acceptance. He was 
happier, perhaps, than at any other period of his life. Al- 
ready, before leaving America, he had written to a friend: 
"I am glad I was born, glad I suffered so, glad I did make big 
blunders, glad to enter peace. Whether this body will fall 
and release me or I enter into freedom in the body, the old 
man is gone, gone for ever, never to come back again! Be- 
hind my work was ambition, behind my love was personality, 
behind my purity was fear, behind my guidance the thirst 
for power. Now they are vanishing and I drift. . . ." 

His departure from this life, on July 4th, 1902, had all the 
marks of a premeditated act. For some months, he had been 
quietly releasing himself from his various responsibilities and 
making final arrangements. His health gave no particular 

VEDANTA For The Western World 26 

cause for alarm. He had been ill, and now seemed better. 
He ate his midday meal with relish, talked philosophy with 
his brother swamis, and went for a walk. In the evening, he 
sat down to meditate, giving instructions that he was not to 
be disturbed. Presently, he passed into samadhi, and the 
heart stopped beating. It all happened so quietly that nobody 
could believe this was the end. For hours, they tried to rouse 
him. But his Mother's work was done. And Ramakrishna had 
set him free at last. 

I have already suggested that Vivekananda had two mes- 
sages to deliver; one to the East, the other to the West. In the 
United States and in England, he preached the universality 
of religious truth, attacked materialism, and advocated spirit- 
ual experiment, as against dogma and tradition. In India, on 
the other hand, we find that he preferred to stress the ideal of 
social service. To each, he tried to' give what was most lacking. 

Side by side with the Ramakrishna Order, he established 
the Ramakrishna Mission, an institution which has grown 
steadily throughout the four decades of this century. There 
are now nearly a hundred centers in different parts of India, 
devoted either to the contemplative life, or to social service, 
or to a combination of both. The Mission has its own hospi- 
tals, dispensaries, high-schools, industrial and agricultural 
schools, libraries and publishing-houses. In 1941, it opened 
a college which is affiliated ivith the University of Calcutta. 
It has been consistently active in famine, flood and epidemic 
relief. During the great Bengal famine of 1943-44* it took 
the lead in organizing emergency food supplies. 

Vivekananda founded the first American Vedanta Society 
in New York City. Four direct disciples of Ramakrishna 
came from India to carry on his work. From that time on- 
ward, the Order has met an increasing demand for teachers. 
Each one of them has come to this country upon the invita- 
tion of some group of Americans, who wished to learn more 
about Vedant? Philosophy. Although the Vedanta Society of 
America is an extension of the Ramakrishna Mission of India, 
whose headquarters are at Belur, Calcutta, each center is a 
separate unit. Nearly all of them have their own boards of 
trustees, made up of American citizens. The swami in charge 

27 Introduction 

gives lectures and holds classes for the study of Vedanta litera- 
ture, including the Upanishads, the Bhagavad-Gita, the works 
of Shankara and Patanjali's Yoga Aphorisms. In some centers, 
there are resident students. At the present time, there are 
thirteen centers in the United States, one in England, and 
one in the Argentine. 

The magazine from which this selection has been made was 
started in January 1938, under the auspices of Swami Asho- 
kananda of -the San Francisco Center and Swami Prabhava- 
nanda of the Center in Los Angeles. During its first three 
years, it was called The Voice of India; then the title was 
changed to Vedanta and the West. It appears bi-monthly. 
Swami Prabhavananda has been its editor throughout. He 
has had a succession of assistant editors: Frederick Man- 
chester, Percy H. Houston, Gerald Heard, Maud Alice Pig- 
gott, and myself. 

Vedanta and the West has always had an extremely small 
circulation, a fact that we much regret, since there must be 
many people in this country who would wish to subscribe to 
it, if they knew of its existence. We hope to reach some of 
them by publishing this book. 

From another point of view, however, I cannot say I am 
sorry that Vedanta and the West has always remained, as 
it were, a parish magazine, a family affair. Our list of con- 
tents is quite innocent of window-dressing. Several of our 
contributors have distinguished names, but their work has 
not been hired. They have written for us simply because they 
are interested in Vedanta and are our personal friends. 

Very few of the essays included have been edited or 
abridged. The reader will therefore find much repetition and 
restatement. I do not apologize for this. Indeed, I think it is 
desirable. The truths here discussed are, in a sense, decep- 
tively simple. They may be overlooked at a first, a second, or 
even a third reading. They need reiteration. They will bear 
a great deal of thinking about, and acting upon. 

Swami Prabhavananda to whom I owe my own small 
knowledge of the subject, and infinitely much else besides 
has helped me, from first to last, in preparing this book for 
publication. I must thank all our contributors, both for their 
original generosity and for permission to reprint what they 

VEDANTA For The Western World 28 

have written. Messrs. Chatto & Windus have kindly al- 
lowed us to include those essays which have since become 
portions of Aldous Huxley's "Grey Eminence" and "Time 
Mus' Have a Stop." 

October 1945. 


Is ^Mysticism Sscapism? 


"MYSTICISM is SIMPLY ESCAPISM" that little jingle has almost 
become a slogan of those who occupy most of the key posts 
in philosophy and religion. Even those who feel that there 
"may be something in it," shelter the mystics in their con- 
gregations or class rooms as though they were political suspects 
or at the very least feeble-minded people subject to fits and 
not to be teased. Now a slogan is a good "butt-end" of words 
with which, when the shot of reason misses fire, to bludgeon 
your opponent, but emotional attacks should have no part 
in religious or philosophical discussion. First and foremost 
philosophy stands for accurate definition of terms and reli- 
gion, one used to think, for seeking above all else the Pres- 
ence of God. We must therefore define these words and 
discover whether or no the procedure they describe leads 
to or away from the goal of our being. 

The tremendous word mysticism cannot be defined until 
we have settled with the smaller but perhaps vaguer word 
escapism. Mysticism is a very old word, escapism one judges 
very new. But the verb to escape is clear enough it means 
to leave a position which has become impossible. We can 
then ask: In the history of Christianity, was Benedict an 
escapist when he refused to become a consul in the dying 
empire, when he refused to believe there was any future for 
that bankrupt state and instead founded the order which 
revived the basic agriculture which the empire had ruined, 
salvaged the culture it could no longer protect, and did these 
things because and only because he had forged a new psy- 
chology or social psychotherapy whereby men of intentional 
living and good will might heal their own neurosis, create 
a true collectivism and put first the kingdom of God, then 
sound economics and finally the preservation of the intel- 


VEDANTA For The Western World 30 

lectual wealth of western man? To escape is therefore a 
neutral term. It may be a wrong thing to do, or a right. 
"When they persecute you in one city flee into another" is 
an instruction which spread the Christian church. The man 
who leaves the ship to attempt to swim to shore with a rope, 
is escaping, but for the sake of the rest on the wrecked ship 
and he is risking his life. Our motive therefore decides 
whether escape is good or bad and our motive, again, de- 
pends on what we think will happen and what we think the 
circumstances to be with which we are confronted. As a mat- 
ter of fact the goal of most of those who charge others with 
"escapism" is an earthly Utopia. They don't believe in 
heaven and God is merely a means, if He is permitted any 
place, to make men better and happier. Now Utopianism 
can be called escapism, for it is a wish to live in the future, 
not in the present, and it certainly is as vague as "otherworld- 
liness" because biologically and meteorologically we know 
it is impossible for any race of animals to achieve a perma- 
nent home, let alone a "heaven on earth," on this planet. 
As far as hard-fisted certainty is concerned there is then 
nothing to choose between the two futures which idealists 
put in front of themselvesneither can be proved to be mani- 
festly evident. The pure idealist is able to retort to the "in- 
definitely postponed new worldist" that neither of them can 
prove his proposition. When the writer of the letter to the 
Hebrews remarked of the pioneers whose case he was mak- 
ing, they say openly that they seek another country, he was 
saying something which certainly today many people would 
call escapist but he knew what he was talking about. To es- 
cape then may or may not be right. That turns on whither 
we escape. That brings us to mysticism. The mystic says that 
this world is real in a way just as "token coinage" is not to 
be wasted but its reality depends on its being "quoted" on 
another currency and security. He does not call this life evil 
any more than he calls an egg evil but he says, with some 
common sense, that if an egg stays too long as an egg few 
things are more bad, more rotten, more evil. The mystic 
maintains that the only man who is a realist, is not the man 
who pursues imaginary ends, such as happiness by wealth 
or in some fanciful future whether for himself or for others 

31 Is ^Mysticism Gscapism? 

but the man who freeing himself of the delusions of regrets 
and anticipations, wins the power to see things as they arc. 
Such realists, though their slit of vision was narrow, were 
the great impressionist painters who threw away livelihood, 
wealth, respect, who were called fools and knaves, in order 
that they might just see things as they actually were. Now 
most people do not believe that there is a reality "closer than 
breathing, nearer than hands and feet," a reality quite differ- 
ent from that of common sense. The religious should how- 
ever have known that that was so. Because they lost their 
vision, its authenticity had to be vouched for by the artists 
not by the clerics. 

If then there is such a state of being, not in a future life 
(though there it may be also) but here and now, then the 
mystic is the realist. He maintains that there is such a state, 
that anyone may experience it who chooses to undergo the 
arduous training and athleticism of spirit to gain that insight, 
and that it was to attain that state that man was created, or 
to use our vernacular, the end of evolution is not the creation 
of bigger and more complicated societies and more elaborate 
economic structures but the attainment of a higher and in- 
tenser form of consciousness, a consciousness as much above 
that of the average man today as that is above the animals'. 

Now all high religion has borne witness to this state, to its 
attainability and to it as being the goal set for man by God. 
It needs, however, a great creative effort to attain it. Crea- 
turely activity, to use the Friends' phrase, may help one to 
attain this state, or it may hinder; again it depends on motive 
and knowelge. "If thou knowest what thou art doing blessed 
art thou, if not cursed." The rules whereby the process may 
be worked are clear there is nothing soft or vague about 
them. "But don't they take men away from life?'* If by life 
is meant helping others to follow and not thwart evolution 
certainly not. If by life is meant building a more pleasant 
social order for those who do not wish to follow the stern 
path of evolution, even then the mystic way is probably the 
only way of ever getting a more efficient social order than 
we have today. It is sanction for which our social order waits. 
Who has the vision to tell us how to act, who can guarantee 
that "right action is prized at the heart of things?" Only the 

VEDANTA For The Western World 32 

mystic; all others speak as the scribes. Our social order, as 
Lincoln Steffens pointed out, has gone as high as people of 
our characters can cany it weak bricks can only make small 
arches for a larger arch will crush them and all will crash in 
ruin. If we want a more effective social order we must produce 
better men. How? By giving them that training whereby the 
innate egotism of the best of today is transcended, through 
what the mystic calls the vision of God, through what we may 
call an accurate, or painstaking, gradual enlargement of con- 
sciousness. The ants as they achieved their amazing socialist 
state found that it could not be done by leaving themselves as 
they once were. They go through three stages achieving their 
social structure. They hatch out as larvae, then they have to 
pass into pupation, and only after that second birth-and- 
death do they emerge as full adults adequate to sustain the 
state and not ruin it. The mystics have said the same thing. 
You must be born again. You begin by being a servant of 
God, then you must die even to all the things of that life that 
you may be born a friend of God and finally you may pass 
into an even higher state, if so be we suffer together with 
those who have so attained, that we may be glorified with 
them also. Such a scheme of things is daring, is curiously 
naturalistic, and is the only adequate answer to our present 
problem: How find men adequate in character and powers 
to the enormous task which our sanctionless society (capsizing 
because its means have overbalanced its knowledge of ends, 
its physics, its psychology) now presents. The mystic may be 
too hopeful, too concerned with an attempt to salvage the 
unsalvable, but he, put beside the ordinary economically ob- 
sessed ''secular" or "religious," is a realist and a daring man 
of action. 

'^*>*9&>^S>^>^>^g>*&<& e && 

The ^Minimum Working 
Hypothesis 1 


RESEARCH INTO SENSE-EXPERIENCE motivated and guided by 
a working hypothesis; leading, through logical inference to 
the formulation of an explanatory theory; and resulting in 
appropriate technological action. That is natural science. 

No working hypothesis means no motive for research, no 
reason for making one experiment rather than another, no 
way of bringing sense or order into the observed facts. 

Contrariwise, too much working hypothesis means finding 
only what you already know to be there and ignoring the rest. 
Dogma turns a man into an intellectual Procrustes. He goes 
about forcing things to become the signs of his word-patterns, 
when he ought to be adapting his word-patterns to become 
the signs of things. 

Among other things religion is also research. Research 
into, leading to theories about and action in the light of, non- 
sensuous, non-psychic, purely spiritual experience. 

To motivate and guide this research what sort and how 
much of a working hypothesis do we need? 

None, say the sentimental humanists; just a little bit of 
Wordsworth, say the nature-worshippers. Result: they have 
no motive impelling them to make the more arduous experi- 
ments; they are unable to explain such non-sensuous facts as 
come their way; they make very little progress in charity. 

At the other end of the scale are the Catholics, the Jews, 
the Moslems, all with historical one-hundred-per-cent re- 
vealed religions. These people have their working hypotheses 
about non-sensuous reality; which means that they have a mo- 

iThis article subsequently appeared as part of Sebastian's notebook in 
""Time Must Have a Stop." 


VEDANTA For The Western World 34 

tive for doing something about it. But because their working 
hypotheses are too elaborately dogmatic, most of them dis- 
cover only what they were initially taught to believe. But 
what they believe is a hotch-potch of good, less good and 
even bad. Records of the infallible intuitions of great saints 
into the highest spiritual reality are mixed up with records 
of the less reliable and infinitely less valuable intuitions of 
psychics into the lower levels of non-sensuous reality; and to 
these are added mere fancies, discursive reasonings and senti- 
mentalisms, projected into a kind of secondary objectivity 
and worshipped as divine facts. But at all times and in spite 
of these handicaps a persistent few have continued to re- 
search to the point where at last they find themselves looking 
through their dogmas, out into the Clear Light of the Void 

For those of us who are not congenitally the members of 
an organized church, who have found that humanism and 
nature-worship are not enough, who are not content to re- 
main in the darkness of ignorance, the squalor of vice or the 
other squalor of respectability, the minimum working hy- 
pothesis would seem to run to about this: 

That there is a Godhead, Ground, Brahman, Clear Light 
of the Void, which is the unmanifested principle of all mani- 

That the Ground is at once transcendent and immanent. 

That it is possible for human beings to love, know and, 
from virtually, to become actually identical with the divine 

That to achieve this unitive knowledge of the Godhead is 
the final end and purpose of human existence. 

That there is a Law or Dharma which must be obeyed, a 
Tao or Way which must be followed, if men are to achieve 
their final end. 

That the more there is of self, the less there is of the God- 
head; and that the Tao is therefore a way of humility and 
love, the Dharma a living Law of mortification and self- 
transcending awareness. This, of course, accounts for the facts 
of history. People like their egos and do not wish to mortify 
them, get a bigger kick out of bullying and self-adulation 
than out of humility and compassion, are determined not to 

j5 7 he ^Minimum Working Hypothesis 

see why they shouldn't "do what they like" and "have a good 
time." They get their good time; but also and inevitably the)) 
get wars and syphilis, tyranny and alcoholism, revolution, 
and in default of an adequate religious hypothesis the choice 
between some lunatic idolatry, such as nationalism, and a 
sense of complete futility and despair. Unutterable miseries! 
But throughout recorded history the great majority of men 
and women have preferred the risk no, the positive certainty 
of such disasters to the tiresome whole-time job of seeking 
first the kingdom of God. In the long run, we get exactly 
what we ask for. 


Hypothesis and T&elief 


IF A MEMBER of the so-called intellectual class joins any reli- 
gious group or openly subscribes to its teaching, he will have 
to prepare himself for a good deal of criticism from his un- 
converted and more skeptical friends. Some of these may be 
sympathetic and genuinely interested; others will be covertly 
satirical, suspicious, or quite frankly hostile and dismayed. It 
will be suggested to the convert, with a greater or lesser de- 
gree of politeness, that he has "sold out," betrayed the cause 
of Reason, retreated in cowardice from "the realities of Life," 
and so forth. Henceforward, his conduct will be narrowly 
watched for symptoms of pretentiousness, priggishness, prud- 
ery and all other forms of puritanism. Certain topics will 
either be altogether avoided in his presence, or they will be 
presented in the form of a challenge, to see how he will 
take them. 

The convert himself, self-conscious and badly rattled, is al- 
most sure to behave unnaturally. Either he will preach at his 
old friends and bore them; thus confirming their worst sus- 
picions. Or he will make desperate efforts to reassure them, 
by his manner and conversation, that he is still "one of the 
gang." He will be the first to blaspheme, the first to touch 
upon the delicate subject. And his friends, far from feeling 
relieved, will be sincerely shocked. 

One question, especially, he must learn to expect. It will be 
asked by the mosr candid, by those who really want to know: 
"Yes, of course, I can quite understand why you did it, in a 
way . . . but tell me, do you actually believe all that?" This 
question is particularly distressing to the convert, because, if 
he is to be honest, he will have to answer: "No. I don't yet." 

The "all that" to which the questioner refers will vary in 
detail and mode of formulation, according to the religious 


37 Hypothesis and 'Belief 

group the convert happens to have chosen. In essence, how- 
ever, it can always be covered by what Aldous Huxley has 
called "the minimum working hypothesis." This word "hy- 
pothesis" is extremely significant, but it will probably be 
overlooked by the outside observer, who prefers to simplify 
his picture of the world's religions by regarding their teach- 
ings as "creeds" and "dogmas." Nevertheless, a statement of 
religious doctrine can be properly called a creed only by 
those who know it to be true. It remains an hypothesis as 
long as you are not quite sure. Spiritual truth is, by defini- 
tion, directly revealed and experienced: it cannot be known 
at second hand. What is revealed truth to a Christ is merely 
hypothetical truth to the vast majority of his followers; but 
this need not prevent the followers from trusting in Christ's 
personal integrity and in the authenticity of his revelation, 
as far as Christ himself is concerned. One can feel sure that 
Einstein is neither a fraud nor a lunatic, and that he has actu- 
ally discovered the law of relativity; and still fail, in a certain 
sense, to "believe" in the conception of Space-Time, just be- 
cause one has not yet personally understood it. 

There is, even nowadays, a good deal of loose and unreal- 
istic talk about "the conflict between religion and science." 
I call this kind of talk unrealistic because it suggests that 
"Science," and hence scientists, are one hundred per cent 
materialistic; and that "Religion" is based upon the blind, 
hundred per cent acceptance of dogmas which are incapable 
of scientific proof. Modern Science is, of course, very far 
from being materialistic. In the nineteenth century, it is 
true, Science did pass through a phase of mechanistic mate- 
rialism. But the scientist himself never has been, and never 
could be, an absolute materialist. The scientist is a human be- 
ing. The absolute materialist, if he existed, would have to 
be some sort of non-human creature, completely lacking the 
human faculty of intuition, a mere machine for measuring 
and making calculations. If a human being could become a 
truly convinced materialist, he would never have the heroism 
to get up in the morning, shave, and eat his breakfast. His 
world-picture would be too terrible for even the boldest heart 
to contemplate; and, within twenty-four hours, he would 
have committed suicide. 

VEDANTA For The Western World 38 

Similarly, a religion based upon blind faith could not pos- 
sibly survive, as all the world-religions have survived, for 
hundreds and thousands of years. Religion lives, and is re- 
vived, from age to age, because of the direct revelation of 
the few, the saints, who win for themselves a personal knowl- 
edge of spiritual reality. Religion survives in spite of blind 
faith, priestly persecution, ecclesiastical politics; in spite of 
superstition and ignorance amongst the masses of its adher- 
ents. Most of us cannot understand this, because our imagina- 
tion refuses to grasp the gigantic influence and importance of 
the saint as an historical phenomenon. Whereas the persecu- 
tion and the ignorance stand out brutally from the pages of 
history in red and black, plain for all to see. Nine times out 
of ten, when we use the word "Religion," we are really refer- 
ring to the crimes or follies committed in Religion's name. 

There is no conflict between true Religion and true Sci- 
ence, but there is a great deal of bickering between religious 
dogmatists and scientific pedants. The dogmatist states his 
case, or rather, presents his dogmatic ultimatum. The scien- 
tifically trained pedant reminds him, none too patiently, that 
his assertions cannot be verified by the microscope, the slide- 
rule, or the laboratory experiment. Therefore, he continues, 
quite rightly, the dogma is merely another hypothesis. And, 
he will probably add that hypotheses which are incapable of 
scientific proof do not interest him, anyway. At this point, a 
deadlock is reached, and the two men part in mutual annoy- 

But now let us suppose that, instead of the tiresome, dog- 
matic convert (who is unconvincing because he has not per- 
sonally experienced the truth of what he asserts) Christ him- 
self should enter the scientist's laboratory, and make the very 
same statements which the convert makes. How would the 
scientist react? If the scientist were a pure, non-human mate- 
rialist, he would, of course, remain completely unconvinced. 
But, since he is a creature of emotion and intuition as well 
as of reason, the chances are that he would be impressed, not 
rationally but emotionally, by the personality of Christ and 
the tremendous psychological impact of such a meeting. In 
spite of his scientific training, he would venture to trust his 
intuition. He would say to himself: "Although my scientific 

39 Hypothesis and Belief 

methods of analysis cannot deal with these statements, my 
intuition tells me that this man has some authority for his 

This raises the question of what we may call "the credibil- 
ity of the witness/' The jury in a court of law does not, or 
should not, judge a case entirely by scientific (i.e. rational) 
method: it relies, also, on intuition. It decides to believe a 
witness or not to believe him sometimes in defiance of con- 
siderable circumstantial evidence. There is, also, the factor 
of corroboration. If two or more witnesses support each 
other, and make an impression of being truthful, the case 
is apt to turn in their favour. 

When we begin to examine the assertions of the great reli- 
gious teachers, we shall have to behave like jurymen. Reason 
can help us, no doubt, and it must be brought to bear on 
the case; but Reason will not take us all the way. It can only 
deliver a provisional verdict. It can only say: "This is possi- 
ble/' or "Perhaps . . /' Next, we must ask ourselves: "What 
sort of men are telling us this? Are they charlatans? Do they 
seem sane? Do their lives bear out the truth of what they 
preach?" And, again: "Do they, substantially, agree with each 
other's testimony?" On this second point, however, there can 
be little argument. The basis of essential agreement between 
the great religious teachers of the world is very firm, and 
can easily be demonstrated by documentary evidence. Any 
student of comparative religion can reconstruct "the mini- 
mum working hypothesis." Nevertheless, it is quite possible 
to decide that Buddha, Christ, Shankara, St. Francis and 
Ramakrishna were all mad, or self-deluded, and therefore 
not to be taken seriously. If that is the verdict, then our in- 
quiry ends. 

But, if the world's teachers were not mad, then, as all must 
agree, their teaching has universal application, and implies 
an obligation to put it into practice, in our own lives. And so 
we are faced by the next question: "Am I dissatisfied with 
my life as it is at present? And, if so, am I sufficiently dissatis- 
fied to want to do anything about it?" 

Here the majority and the minority definitely part com- 
pany. Buddha said that human life is miserable, but he did 
not say that everybody thinks it is. Not all the socially under- 

VEDANTA For <The Western World 40 

privileged are dissatisfied, as every reformer knows, to his 
despair. And this is even truer of spiritual poverty than of 
economic lack. Life contains a number of vivid sense-pleas- 
ures, and the gaps of despondency and boredom between 
them can be filled more or less adequately by hard work, 
sleep, the movies, drink and daydreaming. Old age brings 
lethargy, and morphia will help you at the end. Life is not so 
bad, if you have plenty of luck, a good physique and not 
too much imagination. The disciplines proposed by the spirit- 
ual teachers are drastic, and the lazy will shrink back from 
them. They are tedious, also, and this will discourage the im- 
patient. Their immediate results are not showy, and this will 
deter the ambitious. Their practice is apt to make you appear 
ridiculous to your neighbors. Vanity, sloth and desire will all 
intervene to prevent a man from setting his foot upon the 
path of religious effort. 

Disregarding all these obstacles, and they are tremendous, 
the beginner will have to say to Himself: "Well, I am going 
to try. I believe that my teacher is sane and honest. I don't 
believe in his teachings with the whole of my mind, and I 
won't pretend that I do, but I have enough belief to make a 
start. My reason is not offended. My approach is strictly 
experimental. I will put myself into his hands, and trust him 
at least as far as I would trust my doctor. I will try to live 
the kind of life which he prescribes. If, at the end of three or 
four years, I can conscientiously say that I have done what 
was asked of me and had no results whatsoever, then I will 
give up the whole attempt as a bad job." 


What Toga Is 


PATANJALI, the father of Indian yoga philosophy, has de- 
fined yoga as "restraining the mind-stuff from taking various 
forms/' What in the West is known as mind is called in East- 
ern psychology the chitta, or "mind-stuff/* The chitta, accord- 
ing to this psychology, comprises the manas, or that which re- 
ceives the impressions from the outer senses; the buddhi, or 
the discriminating intellect; and the aham, or the sense o[ 
ego. The chitta, or mind-stuff, despite the fact that it per- 
ceives and is conscious, is not the Self, but only the instru- 
ment of the Self. The Self is Intelligence itself, the Knower, 
the Seer, the Subject; the chitta reflects the divine illumina- 
tion and so itself appears but only appearsto see and to 
know. Knowledge or perception, according to Patanjali, is a 
witti, a wave in the mind. All knowledge is objective: the 
Seer, the real Self, which is behind all knowledge, remaining 
unknown. What Western psychologists call introspection or 
knowledge of the subjective mind even that Patanjali re- 
gards as objective, since the mind is not the Seer, *mt only an 
instrument of seeing, and is as much an object of perception 
as is the objective world. Man thinks that he knows himself, 
but that is an error which he falls into by identifying himself 
with his mind and with the waves that rise upon it. Some- 
thing external impinges on his mind, and raises in it a wave 
of happiness or a wave of misery, with the result that he re- 
gards himself as either happy or unhappy. This delusion con- 
tinues so long as he remains ignorant of the true nature of 
his Self which is said to be shuddha ("pure"), buddha 
("enlightened"), and mukta ("free"). Now the method of 
yoga is to control completely the waves of the mind, "re- 
straining the mind-stuff from taking various forms," so that 


VEDANTA For The Western World 42 

the real, free, and divine nature of the Self may at last be 

In order to make clear what has just been explained, the 
commentators employ a simple image. If the surface of a lake, 
they say, is covered with ripples, or its water is muddy, the 
bottom cannot be seen. The lake is the chitta, and the bottom 
of the lake is the Self. 

Whenever the waves of the mind are made tranquil, knowl- 
edge of the Self is revealed. This it was that Christ meant 
when he said: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall 
see God/' 

The subdual of the waves that would possess the mind is 
not a superficial process, nor a momentary one, but a com- 
plete transformation. It is a change that can be achieved by 
yogic discipline. Doubtless St. Paul referred to this kind of 
restraint when he said, "Be ye transformed by the renewal of 
your own mind." 

In order to achieve this renewal of the mind, yoga psy- 
chology considers not only the actual states (vrittis) of the 
mind-stuff (chitta), but also the latent states, called the 
samskaras, or "potentialities." Before we can hope to re- 
strain the mind-waves successfully, we must endeavor to 
eradicate the potentialities, the root impressions which con- 
trol the actual states of the vrittis. For when one mental state 
passes into another, it is not altogether lost, but leaves be- 
hind it an impression in the chitta an impression, or sams- 
kara, which in turn tends to give rise to similar vrittis, or 
states. Thus the vrittis cause the samskaras, and the samskaras 
cause the vrittis. The samskaras are like deep roots in the soil 
of the chitta, from which grow the actual plants, the vrittis. 
To destroy the weeds, we must eradicate the roots, and to do 
this it is not enough to restrain the actual vrittis, but also, 
through yoga discipline, to overcome, weaken, and destroy 
the samskaras, the potentialities of the actual states. 

Modern Western psychology, particularly Freudian, takes 
into consideration these potentialities. Freud postulates three 
"areas," or states of mind: the unconscious, the pre-conscious, 
and the conscious. The unconscious is the receptacle of such 
of our past experiences as have been definitely forgotten and 
cannot be recalled by the ordinary method of recollection. 

43 What Toga L 

The pre-conscious is that part of the mind in which an 
stored experiences which, though apparently forgotten, car 
be recalled by an effort of the will. Modern Western psychol 
ogists differ in their explanation of the unconscious mind 
some holding that it is the receptacle of our individual past 
experiences, and of these alone, while others would include 
with them the common experiences of the race. 

Yoga psychology agrees with the Western view that the un 
conscious is a depository of certain individual past experi 
ences, but it differs radically as to the interpretation of those 
experiences. To Patanjali, our individual past is not limitec 
to the present life, as all Western psychologists would assume 
but extends indefinitely backward through a succession ol 
incarnations. According to the law of karma, our birth is the 
result of our past lives, in each of which, and in the present 
we possess the same chitta. In the "unconscious mind/' if we 
may adopt the Freudian term, are stored the impressions and 
the tendencies which have been formed in our previous ex 
istences, and which, taken together, have made us what w< 

The samskaras, or potentialities, represent therefore the 
root impressions received from all our past experiences, in 
eluding those of our former lives, and they have moulded oui 
characters so that, even though largely forgotten, they still 
control or influence our every act and thought. They ma} 
also take on fresh life and potency without our conscious 
effort or will. Now yoga philosophyand this is the very core 
of its doctrine proposes a method of discipline whereby these 
root impressions may first be overcome, and then destroyed 
and whereby a complete transformation of character may in 
the end be effected. Yoga psychology agrees with Freud thai 
the conscious is controlled and guided by the unconscious 
but it insists that there is a power inherent in the mind 
through which, restraining itself, it can overcome the uncon 
scious and all its tendencies, and achieve by so doing a com 
plete renewal. Thus is its original purity restoreda purit) 
that reflects the supreme purity and infinite knowledge of the 
Divine Self. Thus at last does the Self learn its true nature- 
its utter separateness from the non-self and attain to free 

VEDANTA For The Western World 44 

Any thought wave arising in the mind, or any perception 
apprehended by the mind, is a vritti. The objects of percep- 
tion and of thought are innumerable: innumerable, there- 
fore, are the vrittis. These Patanjali has roughly classified into 
two main divisions: klishta, those which lead towards bond- 
age and suffering, and aklishta, those which lead towards 
freedom and illumination. This distinction is made by the 
great yogi because of an important psychological fact. Though 
the ideal is the attainment of a state in which "all modifica- 
tions of the mind-stuff are controlled/' such a state is not 
possible except through a twofold process. First, the thought 
waves that are impure and lead to bondage and suffering 
must be overcome by raising the vrittis that "lead towards 
liberation." Then these good vrittis themselves must be 
eliminated, so that all motion of the mind-stuff may cease 
and Pure Intelligence may stand revealed. 

Now it is a characteristic of the chitta, or mind-stuff that it 
tends both towards good and towards evil. Vyasa, an ancient 
commentator, compares it to a river that -flows at Uie same 
time in opposite directions. Though, again, the chitta plays 
this dual role, its tendency towards good, the will to freedom 
inherent in every man, is the greater of the two forces. Hav- 
ing noted this superior strength of the will to freedom, Pro- 
fessor Das Gupta observes, in substance: 

"This point is rather remarkable, for it gives the key to 
yoga ethics and shows that our desire for liberation is not 
actuated by any hedonistic attraction towards happiness, or 
even towards removal of pain, but by an innate tendency 
of the mind." 

Could it be, one wonders, that the "will to liberation" de- 
scribed in yoga philosophy is the force which Freud wrongly 
interprets as the "death-instinct"? Freud finds within us two 
innate tendencies: the life-instinct and the death-instinct. 
But the death-instinct is not, he thinks, to be found in its 
pure form, but is inextricably mixed with its opposite, the 
life-instinct a fact that explains the strange phenomena of 
sadism and masochism and the feeling of alternate love and 
hate towards the same object. We are not concerned, haw- 
ever, with the truth or falsity of Freud's explanation of the 
phenomena we have just mentioned, but rather with the fact 

45 What Toga Is 

that by his characterization of his two instincts as antithetical 
he almost arrived at the position taken by yoga psychology 
and yet somehow failed to do so. Yoga mentions the two op- 
posed instincts: the "will to live" arid the "will to liberation." 
The "will to liberation" (Plato's "inner check" and Buddha's 
"higher will") exists, according to yoga, side by side with the 
"will to live" (the "will to desire"), though in some men it is 
weak and in others strong. It is the principal purpose of yoga 
psychology to show how the "higher will" may be strength- 
ened and the "will to live" overcome. 

As the "will to liberation" gains in strength, the "will to 
live," which Freud calls the "life-instinct," grows weaker. Evi- 
dence of this fact may be seen in the lives of all who check 
the lower craving. And, strange though it may seem, this 
craving can be completely overcome, though the "will to lib- 
eration" cannot. This latter, which Freud misnames the 
"death-instinct," is to be found mixed with the "life-instinct" 
in all souls. 

The concrete means by which spiritual control is exercised 
Patanjali analyzes in considerable detail. Control, he says, 
is "by practice and non-attachment." 

By "practice" is meant, he tells us, the exercise of the 
ethical and spiritual disciplines. These are yama, the cultiva- 
tion of moral virtues, such as truthfulness, non-injury, con- 
tinence; niyama, the acquiring of regular habits of study and 
worship; asana, the discipline of sitting quietly in order to 
achieve tranquillity; pranayama, the taking of breathing ex- 
ercises in order to gain C9ntrol of the mind; pratyahara, the 
gathering of the mind from the' thraldom of the senses; 
dharana, concentration; dyhana, meditation; and samadhi, 

These disciplines are to be practiced, and along with this 
practice, says the yogi, we must sow the seed of non-attach- 
ment in our hearts. In fact, practice and non-attachment must 
go hand in hand. Non-attachment, in Patanjali's words, is 
"that effect which comes to those who have given up their 
thirst after objects either seen or heard." 

There are stages of non-attachment, the commentators 
point out, through which we pass as we practice the yoga 
disciplines and as we strive to attain to the supreme ideal of 

VEDANTA For The Western World 46 

renunciation. There are four such stages. The first is yata- 
man, when there arises an inner struggle from not permitting 
the mind to seek gratification of the senses. The second is 
vyatireka, when through self-analysis we realize the measure 
of our own achievement in the field of self-control. We real- 
ize what desires we can control and what we as yet cannot. 
Then with vigor and enthusiasm we must continue to attack 
all desires that still remain in the way of illumination. The 
third is ekendriya, when greater self-control is achieved, and 
the heart, knowing their ephemeral and shadowy nature, no 
longer desires the objects of enjoyment; yet there may still 
remain in the heart a longing curiosity. When this longing 
also has been overcome, we attain the fourth and highest 
stage of renunciation. This is known as basikar. 

This, the supreme goal of renunciation, is achieved only 
by him who has attained complete enlightenment. "That 
supreme non-attachment comes from knowledge of the Self/* 
says Patanjali. And the Gita says: "Objects fall away from 
the abstinent man, leaving the longing behind. But when a 
man sees the Highest, his longing also ceases; " and, again, 
summing up the whole truth of yoga: "With the heart unat- 
tached to external objects, he realizes the joy that is in the 
Self. With the heart devoted to meditation upon Brahman, 
he attains undecaying happiness." 

The Goal of Toga 


ALL RELIGIONS WITHOUT EXCEPTION hold that the Self is in- 
nately pure and divine. "God made man in his own image." 
All religions further hold that that innate, original purity 
has somehow been lost. Christianity attributes the fall of 
man from his pristine state of innocence to the fall of the 
first man, Adam, so that now we are "born in sin and in- 
iquity" through having inherited the sin of Adam, and can 
only be saved through the grace of a merciful heavenly Father 
as revealed in the sacrifice of His only Son, Jesus Christ our 
Lord. Howsoever Christian theologians may interpret this 
doctrine, the truth of this mythological story would seem to 
be that man in his original nature is pure and is a perfect 
image of God; but through some inexplicable cause, he seems 
to have lost that perfection. This imperfection, however, 
which the story of the Fall of Adam informs us we have in- 
herited, cannot be real and permanent, cannot really have 
altered our innate purity. For Christianity, again, offers us 
the ideal goal of conquest over sin and the attainment of 
liberation and a renewed perfection, "even as the Father in 
heaven is perfect/' This goal would be meaningless, for it 
could never be attained had imperfection been our innate 
nature. For it is not possible to change the innate nature of a 
substance without destroying the substance itself. One cannot 
change the nature of fire, which by that very nature must 
radiate heat, except by destroying fire itself. But its inborn 
nature, its heat, may be suppressed by a covering of ash. Re- 
move the ash, and fan the fire, and you will again have both 
fire and heat. The same thing is true of the Self its innate 
purity and divinity may be covered by ignorance but not lost. 
Indian philosophy asserts: "You are for ever free and divine. 
Your apparent imperfection is due to ignorance; realize what 


VEDANTA For The Western World 48 

you are, and be free/' This same truth appears in Christian 
teachings, although theologians may differ in their interpre- 
tations; for does not the Bible say, "The light shineth in 
darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not"? 

We are pure, free, and divine. Suffering, sin, limitations, 
and all imperfections are caused by avidya, the ignorance 
which veils the true nature of Self, causing us to identify our- 
selves with the non-Self. Patanjali, the father of Indian Yoga 
philosophy, says: "The pain-bearing obstructions are igno- 
rance, egoism, attachment, aversion, and clinging to life. Ig- 
norance is the productive field [the main cause] of the others 
that follow." 

Ignorance has been defined as "taking the non-eternal, the 
impure, the painful, and the non-Self, for the eternal, the 
pure, the happy, and the Atman or Self." This ignorance is 
of course universal, and is the basis of our empirical lives, 
the cause of all conditioned experience. It is the "original 
sin" of Christian doctrine. Ignorance, says the great yogi, 
Patanjali, leads to egoism, attachment, aversion, and clinging 
to life the immediate causes of suffering and the confusions 
of our empirical lives. 

"Egoism is the identification of the seer with the instru- 
ment of seeing." The mind is the instrument of perception 
and experience, and the identification of the Self, the seer, 
with this instrument is called the ignorance of egoism. We 
say, "I am happy," or "I am suffering," but happiness or 
suffering are but waves of thought arising in the mind. 
Through the ignorance of egoism, the Self, becoming identi- 
fied with the mind, identifies itself with the waves or thoughts 
in the mind, and either enjoys or suffers. 

Through egoism there arises the desire for pleasurable ex- 
periences in the senses, and there grows attachment to them. 
Desire for sensory and emotional experiences and attachment 
to them cause suffering. Therefore attachment to those expe- 
riences and a desire for them must be avoided if we are to 
seek tranquillity of mind and heart. Opposed to attachment 
is aversion, which is also another cause of suffering, and to 
be avoided. Sri Krishna says in the Gita, "The self-controlled 
man, moving among objects with senses under restraint, and 
free from attraction and aversion, attains to tranquillity." 


Neither a complete withdrawal of the senses from the world, 
nor a denial of the experiences of empirical life, is required 
for tranquillity of mind, but the right attitude of mind in 
freeing itself from both attraction and aversion. 

The last of the "pain-bearing obstructions/' according to 
Patanjali, is clinging to life, a term which may perhaps be 
correlated with Freud's "Life-instinct/* Commentators have 
explained it as "fear of death," which exists instinctively in 
all living beings. This fear of death is another cause of un- 

These five causes of suffering are the chief obstacles in the 
path of yoga; of them all, ignorance is the root cause. They 
exist universally in all beings, though in different states and 
degrees in different people. Patanjali says, "They are either 
dormant, attenuated, overpowered, or expanded." In most 
people these obstacles exist in an expanded state, in some in 
a repressed or overpowered condition. Through the practices 
of yoga and self-discipline, they may be attenuated and fi- 
nally destroyed. 

The goal of yoga is to eradicate these obstacles completely 
and thus to remove the causes of suffering. The root cause, 
as we have seen, is ignorance, which is the "productive field" 
for all other obstacles; and its removal is possible by means 
of its opposite, vidya, or knowledge. Patanjali says, "The 
means for destruction of ignorance is illumination." This 
knowledge or illumination that removes the ignorance is not 
intellectual knowledge, but rather an immediate, direct il- 
lumination in one's own soul. Patanjali declares that this 
illumination appears to us in a sevenfold manner. "His 
knowledge is of the sevenfold highest ground." 

The first to appear will be the convincing realization that 
all knowledge is within ourselves; that what is to be known 
can be discovered not by seeking outside of ourselves but by 
turning our gaze within. 

The second stage of illumination will be marked by the 
absence of suffering. Then it will be impossible for anything 
either within or without to disturb the equilibrium of the 

The third will be the attainment of full illumination, and 
in the fourth stage we become established in the knowledge 

VEDANTA For The Western World 50 

of the Self, when the Self is no longer identified with the non- 
Self, the seer with the seen. 

After attaining this stage, man realizes the fullness of life; 
there is no longer in him any lack or desire, or any sense of 
duty. This is known as karya-vimukti, or the attainment of 
liberation through one's own individual effort. After this 
follows chitta-vimukti, or the process of release of the Self 
from non-Self in three stages. 

First we realize that the mind, the instrument of experi- 
ence, and also the objective world (mother nature), both have 
ended their services to the Self by providing it with worldly 
experiences, and then by releasing it from all bondage and 
suffering, so that neither the mind nor nature has anything 
more to do with the Self. 

Immediately, upon the attainment of this stage, all the 
stored-up impressions of the mind, all its struggles and vacil- 
lations, fall away from the Self as a stone rolls from the 
mountain-top into the valley below, never to return to its 
former position. 

Lastly we find that we are established in the glory of our 
own Self. We know, in the words of Swami Vivekananda, 
"that we have been alone throughout the universe, neither 
body nor mind was ever related, much less joined, to us. They 
were working their own way, and we, through ignofance, 
joined ourselves to them. But we have been alone, omnipo- 
tent, omnipresent, ever blessed; our own Self was so pure 
and perfect that we required nothing else. We required 
nothing else to make us happy, for we are happiness itself. 
We shall find that this knowledge does not depend on any- 
thing else; throughout the universe there can be nothing that 
will not shine with our knowledge. This will be the last state, 
and the yogi will become peaceful and calm, never to feel 
any more pain, never to be again deluded, never to be 
touched by misery. He will know he is ever blessed, ever per- 
fect, almighty." 


Vedanta as the Scientific 
^Approach to 


THE REVIVAL OF INTEREST in Religion is perhaps the most 
significant symptom of our time. For long we have been 
aware that materialism, whether true or false, is not going 
to win. There is a vast mass of people who, whether their 
intelligences are able to grasp the arguments of mechanistic 
Science or no, are possessed of wills which are determined not 
to accept a doctrine which maintains that their lives are futile, 
that their existences mean nothing and that the spirit has no 
significance. We are not however concerned with this pathetic 
defiance nor with the childish defenses with which it would 
protect itself, except in so far as such efforts by their very 
absurdities prove how profound is the need which can pro- 
voke such reactions. We are concerned with far graver symp- 
toms of a great social "deficiency" disease. It would not mat- 
ter muchsave for themselves if a few millions of "oldsters," 
possessed no longer of livers which will stand drink or nerves 
which will endure gambling, take to fanciful cults to while 
away the boredom of retirement and make them forget a fu- 
ture which holds in it no further outstanding event save 
death. It is of immediate social concern when the young and 
highly vigorous start showing similar signs of the lack of 
spiritual vitamins. For they will not take to cults which only 
harm themselves nor practice illusions which end in the 
clinic or cult-house. For some time we have dismissed 
with a superior smile the neurotic vagaries of elderly intro- 
verts. With our utterly superficial psychology we have at- 
tributed such behavior to balked sex and the death-fear. To- 
day the contagion has spread from the dozing dotards :o 
i From a lecture, in 1939. 

FED ANT A For The Western World 52 

most athletic and energetic youthful extroverts. As Carl Jung 
has pointed out, in the fanatical crusading enthusiasms of the 
young storm-troopers of the Totalitarian States we have a 
persecuting dogmatic faith, only to be compared with the 
rise of Mohammedanism. Nationalism today has sprung up as 
a force capable of destroying civilization because the lack of 
religion the lack of a discipline and goal in which the in- 
dividual might transcend himself- left a vacuum in men's 
minds an emptiness and craving which, being without its 
right satisfaction, seized upon a false one. Put men adrift at 
sea in a boat without fresh water and however much you 
warn them that to drink sea water is deadly, when the pangs 
of thirst come upon them and they see the clear delusive 
liquid near them, they drink it and die mad. Nor is this 
thirst-madness merely a symptom of "neurotic Europe." 
Nothing is giving educationalists in the United States greater 
concern than just thisthat there is an immense gap in the 
national education. In technical education, in making men 
and women experts and specialists, the United States has 
nothing to fear. If improvements are required it is quite easy 
to see how they may be provided. It is the other side of the 
educational ledger which is causing a concern so grave that 
here there is almost a conspiracy of silence; for no one knows 
how that growing debit may be met. Lately a questionnaire 
was circulated among prominent educationalists. It sug- 
gestedwhat is obvious that American education was going 
with an increasing "list," a list which if not remedied must 
lead it to capsize. It gave a long series of suggestions as to 
how this imbalance might be corrected. These ranged from 
creative drama, through occupational therapeutic hobbies, 
out to collectivised hiking. Indeed only two activities from 
the Realm of Ends were omitted Philosophy and Religion. 
That is significant of the apprehension and the helpless- 
ness among progressive and influential educationalists. And 
while they question and avoid the pressing issue "Is life 
possible without a philosophy, without a religion?" the great 
public and its government go on their way making the prob- 
lem daily moi~e difficult. For the man in the street and his 
fellow whom he sends to Congress have not as yet awakened to 
the fact that there is any imbalance at all. The men who make 

53 Vedanta as the Scientific ^Approach to Religion 

public opinion and the laws are still in that pre-psychological 
condition of mind when it is assumed that, as life in the end 
must terminate in futility, you can make men content by in- 
creasing their means, until they will forget that there are no 
ends worth living for. As life has no meaning we shall in- 
crease amusements until everyone is so distracted that they 
won't be able to think even of their own deaths. This is of 
course pathetic nonsense and were it not such wishful think- 
ing no rational being could maintain it for a moment. Here 
of course is religion's opportunity, yet we see Western reli- 
gion is helpless to take it. Youth today when its. hunger for 
meaning grows unbearable, will turn not to the churches 
but to those who preach crusading nationalism. Why is 
Western religion helpless? In the answer to that question 
there lies, it would seem, the case for Vedanta. Western 
religion has made three fundamental mistakes. Taking its 
cosmology from the rudimentary Hebrew world-view it tied 
itself to a crude Apocalypticism. By the sixth century Pa- 
rousial expectations, long discouraged by the church, wre 
given an ad hoc moral substitute by the invention of the 
doctrine of Purgatory. This doctrine, leading to ecclesiastical 
corruption, was repudiated by the Reformation. Hencefor- 
ward Protestantism would have no wprld-view, unless it re- 
turned to Apocalypticism by becoming Fundamentalist. The 
Vedanta has a world-view infinitely vaster than the Hebrew 
and one which does not contradict the findings of science. 
The statement that the physical world is a construction of 
the human mind from a substratum, a basic unity which our 
animal senses break up into a manifold, is a statement which 
modern physics can support. The hypothesis that conscious- 
ness is sui generis and this particular temporal experience is 
an event in a series which extends beyond it in both direc- 
tions, is an hypothesis which research into consciousness tends 
to establish. This brings us to the second great mistake of 
Western religion and it is even graver than the first. Western 
religion neglected psychology and psycho-physiology. Its con- 
ception of Deity, fluctuating between a humanised Jehovah 
(the loving Father of Jesus Christ) and a Trinity in which an 
anthropomorphised Logos mediates between man and the in- 
flexible absolute Judge God, made Christianity's one praxis 

VEDANTA For The Western World 54 

to be simple petitionary prayer. True, Eastern influences in- 
troduced a crude asceticism (such as the Thebaid) and an 
occasional second-hand knowledge of meditation, but psychi- 
cal and psycho-physical knowledge was lacking and whenever 
there was any search for these things the church ruthlessly 
persecuted the seekers. In the Vedanta meditation and con- 
templation are basic and make a complete working psychol- 
ogy, while with this scientific knowledge there is, as a modern 
would expect and demand, a clear realisation of the body- 
mind relationship, of how man may and only may change the 
aperture of consciousness by a thorough understanding of 
that relationship. And all this rests, not on blind authority, 
but upon empirical work which any enquirer may repeat 
(indeed must repeat) and confirm for himself. As Dr. Babbitt 
has said, it is the West which has made experiment and 
religion seem an impossible combination. But once trust 
authority blindly and permit authority to rule that Deity is 
arbitrary power only revealing Itself in unchangeable dog- 
mas, and the church must first condemn all experiment and 
then fall into the further, graver error of persecuting and 
striving to destroy all who differ from orthodoxy's rulings. 
This was the third and final blunder of Western religion. 
Tied to an inadequate world-picture, lacking a psychology, 
fearing experiment, it had to end in the last and worst mis- 
take of brutal intolerance. The Vedanta, having a world- 
picture which counsels against impatience and rashness, and 
having a psychology which shows how men may test truth 
and, further, may change their characters and their conscious- 
ness, not only avoids intolerance but has a scientific case for 
tolerance. Tolerating other religions teaches a man to under- 
stand two great truths which the intolerant overlook to their 
cost. The first and more obvious is that men's characters are 
not changed by coercion and yet to change character is the 
sole aim of religion. You may alter the forms but soon, 
though your labels may stick, even the forms have gone back 
to express the unaltered outlook of the so-called converted. 
The second and even more important truth that tolerance 
reveals is that there are not merely higher and lower types 
in the world, but that men of equal intelligence, integrity and 
devotion inherit different methods whereby they must make 

55 Vedanta as the Scientific ^Approach to Religion 

their initial approaches to the Inexpressible Ultimate. Some 
are, to borrow Dr. Sheldon's valuable nomenclatory classi- 
fication, mainly cerebro-tonic, others viscero-tonic and a third 
large class principally somato-tonic. The first class will be 
predominantly intellectual and rational, having little use for 
symbols or conscious need for psycho-physical aids to con- 
centration. The second will be much moved and helped by 
adequate and progressive symbolism. The third is very de- 
pendent on a co-ordination of mind and body in its religious 
practices and, obtaining this aid, may often outstep the intel- 
lectual who unwisely despises such techniques. The needs of 
these types are met by the three main yogas: Jnana Yoga for 
the intellectual, Bhakti for the predominantly devotional, and 
Raja Yoga for those who combine in their natures the need 
for a balanced approach, mental, emotional and physical, to 
the divine. 

Such in brief are some of the outstanding advantages of the 
Vedanta for all interested in religion as a union of Truth and 
Goodness. The blend of Hebrew and Greek thought made 
the "armature" on which was built up that occidental way of 
life which has been called Christendom. It is today in ruins 
and even if it stood it would be too small an arch to span that 
diversity of mankind which today physical science brings 
into contact, though it cannot combine. That can only be 
done by a psychology, an applied knowledge of the human 
psyche, as comprehensive and as exact as is today the West's 
applied knowledge of physical science. It is this which India 
possesses and at last in the Vedanta Mission has shown an 
apostolic desire to give to mankind. Here then, and here 
alone, lies the hope, not of personal salvation (though that is 
an integral part of the training) but of a new and balanced 
philosophy and praxis of life which could provide sane and 
progressive living for a unified mankind. 

^Dedication Ode 1 


In India long ago, 
While yet the dreaming earth 
Wore on her brow the glory of her birth, 

The Rishis saw 

The high Himalaya lift amid the snow, 
And lucid Ganga all her /waters draw 
In slow procession toward the expectant sea; 

In silent awe, 

Awhile they gazed on flower and tree, 
And flaming sun, and gentle moon, and star- 

Then, suddenly, 

From their rapt vision, in a quiet hour, 
Fell star and moon and sun, and tree and flower, 
And purest Ganga's waters bright, 
And great Himalaya's snowy height, 
While to their being's depths, afar, 
Forsaking outward things, they fled, 
By some deep instinct inward led. 


"The courts of sense we left behind" 
Thus the saints their story told 
"And in the stillness, yet more bold, 
Passed beyond the mortal mind; 
Beyond the mortal mind we passed 
Oh, listen well! 

* Composed for the dedication of the temple of the Los Angeles Vedanta 
Society, July 10, 1938. 


57 "Dedication Ode 

Beyond the self, until at last 

We came to THAT whereof no tongue can tell: 

In a hidden place untrod, 

Where death is dead, and grief unknown, 

There, blissful on his royal throne, 



Strange are the ways 
Of this our life! 
The word the Rishis spoke 

In ancient days, 

From sage to sage descending, woke 
Reverberations through ten thousand years- 
Heard now amidst the strife 
Of noble kinsmen warring in their tears, 

And now amidst the calm 
By mighty monarch in his wisdom wrought; 
Now heard in accents loud 
Above the noisy crowd, 

Now faintly where a few lone hermits sought 
In leafy woodland cell their souls' eternal balm; 
Heard latest from his honeyed lips whose name 
From blessed Rama and from Krishna came: 
And, lo, this joyous hour, 
In this far-distant clime- 
As 'twere a trumpet's tone, 

From skyey tower 

Across the continents and oceans blown- 
Wondering, we hear that selfsame word sublime. 


To-day a temple fair, 
With immemorial chant and prayer, 
Is dedicated to all sacred thought: 

May from its shrine 

A pure light shine 
Above the darkness of a world distraught; 

VEDANTA For The Western World 58 

May from its brooding domes descend 
A gracious peace, 

And to sore-burdened spirits lend 
A dear release; 

All, may it ever work to make men truly free- 
May these things be! 


^Discoveries in Pedant a* 


I HAVE BEEN ASKED by the Swami again to address you on this 
anniversary. A year has passed, and in that year much of 
seeming importance has happened. What the world calls 
momentous events have taken place. Our reason for taking 
an interest in the work of this place is, however, due to the 
fact that we have become convinced that the world never 
understands what is taking place in it, it never traces conse- 
quences to their causes let alone to their right causesand 
that therefore it is always engrossed with accidents and never 
with the underlying Substance, with Reality. The work of 
this place is concerned with two things, two supremely im- 
portant issues, the uncovering of Reality and the bringing 
of human life into line with that Reality. We are therefore 
making the only possible contribution to salvaging an almost 
derelict civilization when we work at those two issues. We 
are making the most vital of all returns when we attempt, at 
the completion of another year, to report on this the one 
possible progress, the only progress that can outbalance and 
reverse the world's decline toward chaos. What progress have 
we made? We are taught here that the only real progress we 
can begin by making is progress in ourselves. We have to 
heal ourselves before we can think of healing others let 
alone whole nations. Otherwise we are simply operating with 
septic instruments. The patient might recover of himself if 
we left him alone, but, if we will try our surgery on him and 
our knives are infected, he must die of poisoning. That is 
why so-called Theocracies and Benevolent Tyrannies have 
been so much more hated and harmful than easy-going 
laissez-faire democracies and republics. When, then, we 

iThe Address was delivered on the second Anniversary of the Dedication 
of the Temple of the Vedanta Society of Los Angeles, 


VEDANTA For The Western World 60 

would review our progress we have to keep that fact in mind 
growth in spiritual vitality is the only true progress. But 
that fact compels us to go further. Not only does it warn us 
to attain first true spirituality in ourselves before we would 
save the world: it warns each of us who are set on this path 
and have seen this truth, not to judge our fellow seekers and 
companions-in-training but to attend to our own develop- 
ment. If then I am to speak to you with any accuracy and 
truthfulness about the process, if not the progress, of the 
past year, I must lay before you the type of discovery and 
the sort of application of discovery which one trainee has 
made in the twelve months under review. After all, we are 
much the same, and, though the self can only speak for 
the self, nearly all of us go along the same path. Those of you 
who are ahead will listen with patience to these novice notes. 

I believe that the principal discovery I have made is so 
simple and vast that at times I feel I have always known it 
and at other times I feel that I shall never quite grasp it. I 
can put it most familiarly in the words of our own Western 
Avatar. Jesus the Christ seems to have been, like Gautama 
the Buddha before him, a teacher most anxious to simplify 
the Way for mankind. With that purpose in view he reduced 
the Hebrew Ten Commandments and indeed, as he said, 
the whole Law and the Prophets, down to Two. We are, first, 
to love God unlimitedly and, secondly, we are to love our 
neighbor as ourself. But we in the West thought we could 
go one better than our Teacher. We have tried to reduce the 
Two Commandments to one. We have tried to teach that the 
Second Commandment really included the First and that as 
the First meant no more than the Second, the First was really 
unnecessary, otiose. But Christ was an accurate thinker. The 
Two Commandments cannot be reduced to one, and, further, 
the Second Commandment cannot be put in front of the 
First, Unless we begin by knowing and loving God we can- 
not love our neighbor. Once we have loved God we can 
and then only love our neighbor as ourself. The First Com- 
mandment comes first because it alone can make the Second 
possible. The First Commandment is and is meant to be un- 
limited. We love God without restriction. But is not that 

6 1 <M y Discoveries in Vedanta 

what the Second Commandment says about loving our neigh- 
bor? No: and we would never have fallen into this mistake 
had we ever thought of religion as a subject requiring as 
much accuracy as chemistry. Our love to our neighbor is both 
inspired and controlled, fed and restrained, energized and 
directed by our love toward God. We should not have fallen 
into the tragedies of persecution had we grasped the preci- 
sion and accuracy of Christ's teaching on this essential in- 
struction. For once we see that God is infinite being, infinite 
wisdom, infinite love, then we see with that to Him and to 
Him alone we owe an unlimited devotion and also we see 
why, whereas there is no limit to what we may do for Him 
in accord with his will and being, there is a limit to what 
we may do for all others and to all others. I may love my 
neighbor so that, and only so that, he may become what I 
see from the First Commandment God wishes me and all 
his creatures to become, one with God. I am therefore by 
the First Commandment guarded from the two tragic mis- 
takes which have ruined so much human love which assumed 
that there was only one commandment and that was to love 
my neighbor as I thought myself to be. The first mistake is 
that mistaken love which wishes to give the fellow creature 
it loves all those physical comforts which arrest the soul's 
growth. That is the mistake of Humanism, If we aim at mak- 
ing human beings materially so well-off that they find their 
life good enough in itself then all we do is to suffocate the 
Soul. The second mistake is a blind reaction from the first: 
it is to coerce the fellow creature to give up his comforts and 
to go in the direction in which I say I have found God, or 
some national or class idolatry which I put in the place of 
God. Once we have begun to find God we realize two things. 
First, that since He is the only real good, we dare not give to 
others anything which might distract them from finding the 
only real happiness and, secondly, that since He is the only 
real Power and Being we dare not attempt to drive others to 
find Him Who is the one guide and goal of all. If we have 
found God we need not fear that we are not doing enough 
to help others find Him. As we are taught here, "once the 
flower has opened to the Sun the bees do not have to be 
coerced, or preached at, to coine to the nectar I" 

VEDANTA For The Western World 62 

The second thing taught here which has sunk month by 
month ever more deeply into my mind, may seem at first 
sight to have little connection with the first. I have found 
these two things, nevertheless, to be closely connected. The 
first is the Object of devotion God in Himself, Absolute 
Reality beside which all the physical universe is only a sig- 
nificant dream. The second is the way of devotion, the 
method or technique of worship. Increasingly one has real- 
ized how partial and weak is much of our western devotion 
because we hardly ever worship with more than one-third of 
our nature. At the least we are tripartite creatures of body, 
mind, and spirit. In modern western religion the mind is 
almost the only aspect of consciousness which is used in de- 
votion. Yet the body accompanies us everywhere. We can't 
leave it outside, parked like our cars. Rather are we like the 
Scotch countrymen who bring their collie-dogs into church: 
but whereas the dogs behave perfectly, few could claim such 
sedateness for their bodies. We have not taught them. To 
learn that the body too must worship or it must distract, this 
is a psycho-physical truth which grows in significance the 
more one practices. And as the body assists the mind to wor- 
ship so does the soul. Further each has its own approach and 
utterance: the result is not unison but harmony, a chord, 
"not three notes but a star." How is this truth about the 
method of worship to be linked with that about worship's 
object? God is Reality; Reality is a Being so intense that, as 
we are, we cannot see Him. If we would experience Reality, 
know God, we must draw our entire being together, bring 
our scattered, dissipated and distended being into a single- 
pointed focus. "The single-hearted," those who want only 
one thing, so they have ceased to desire anything else, either 
appetites, or possessions, or recognitions, "see God." Unless 
we correlate our complete being, and desire Reality and 
nothing but Reality with the whole gamut and range of ou 
being, from the highest range of the psyche to the most basic 
level of the physique, we shall not see God we shall be de- 
voted to something which is less than Reality and, in conse- 
quence, we shall never be wholly satisfied and we shall never 
be able convincingly to tell others about God, and about the 
way to find Him. As I have come to see the connection be* 

63 ^My 'Discoveries in Vedanta 

tween these two truths taught here I have begun to grasp a 
third which, to use again the simile from music, makes a 
chord in the teaching. If God is Reality: if that Reality can 
only be apprehended when he who would see has dedicated 
his entire nature to seeing, then it must follow as the day the 
night that God is not some Being infinitely distant, at best a 
post mortem experience, but, if the seer will become single- 
visioned, God, Reality, may be known here and now. His 
very nature is Presence: it is only our obliquity of body 
mindspirit that hides from us the instant, timeless splen- 
dour. These then are the three correlated truths that in the 
past year have grown into a unity of understanding and be- 
gun to coordinate the three aspects and levels of one's being. 
The first is that God alone is wholly Real all other experi- 
ences are sustained on and by that base. The second is that 
we fail to see Reality, though He is always Present, because 
we are dissipated. Once we recollect and present our scat- 
tered being, bringing the facets into one focus, we cannot but 
see the Presence. The third is that this transmuting Event is 
not something which we have to wait for till we die, some- 
thing which we may hope for after death, but which we may 
have, cannot fail to have, the moment we can ask for it 
wholly, with spirit, with mind, and with body. Then our self- 
imposed ignorance vanishes and we see that God has always 
been Present, closer than breathing, nearer than hands or 

That these truths are taught here and that the way to prac- 
tice them is indicated, is of the greatest value. Here is given 
a system, when in the West we have only had fragments of 
true gnosis: here is an empirical science, in comparison with 
those happy insights and uncoordinated hints which are all 
the guidance our own tradition can now yield. 

^Divine Qrace 


How TO ATTAIN SALVATION is the fundamental problem of 
every religion. The Christians believe that man is born in 
sin and iniquity, and that he must be saved from sin and 
attain eternal felicity in heaven. The Hindus and the Bud- 
dhists believe that man is born in ignorance and that he must 
save himself from ignorance, and thus from the bondage of 
life and death, and attain the kingdom of God which is 
within us. If we really .analyze all the different doctrines of 
the religions of the world, we find that whereas they differ 
in language and expression they share the same ideal, the 
same goal. The Hindus, Buddhists and Christians all teach 
that the Kingdom of God is within, and that is what the 
mystics of all faiths emphasize that heaven is within your 
very soul, and that by completely attaining to this divine 
realization you attain salvation, or liberation from ignorance 
and from the bondage of life and death. 

Now again, the Vedantists point out that, because of the 
presence of God within us, there exists in everyone, whether 
sinner or saint, the urge to attain God. But a sinner is one 
who is unconscious of that urge, while a saint is one who 
understands that urge and consciously strives for its attain- 
ment. Now what is that urge? It is the hope to attain freedom 
from suffering, freedom from misery, freedom from igno- 
rance, freedom from death. What is the sinner seeking by his 
sins? Happiness, freedom. In other words, he too is seeking 
heaven, only he is seeking it the wrong way. He can find 
freedom in himself. Christ and Buddha and all the great 
illumined souls, and all the scriptures point out to us this 
one truth: that there is salvation from the bondage in which 
we live; that we can be saved from our limitations and fini- 
tude and that we can attain that eternal life, that eternal 

6 4 

65 ^Divine Qrace 

felicity, if only we enter the kingdom of God which is within 
our very souls. 

Now with this doctrine of salvation and the attainment of 
liberation and freedom, is closely allied the doctrine of grace. 
If you read the many scriptures of the world, you will find 
the idea of grace as the ultimate way by which we can attain 
that liberation, that illumination. True, Buddha did not 
speak of divine grace, but neither did he speak of God. What 
he taught, however, was not incompatible with the idea of 
divine grace. But Christ, Krishna, Ramakrishna all say that 
through divine grace alone one can attain that wisdom, that 
kingdom of God. Christ said: "Ye have not chosen Me, but I 
have chosen you." In the Upanishads we read: "By him 
whom the Self hath chosen is this truth of God attained/' 
Without this choosing of God, without that divine grace, it 
is not possible to know Him, to attain Him. And all the 
greatest souls, in the highest stages of illumination, have 
unequivocally admitted, "Through divine grace alone could 
I have this illumination." Not one, whether he be Christian 
or Hindu, says, "By my own struggles have I attained." 

It is very difficult, from our viewpoint of ignorance, when 
we hear that through divine grace alone can illumination be 
attained, to understand what is really meant by "divine 
grace." We get a little confused. The question arises: If I 
have to depend upon divine grace, if I have to wait until that 
grace descends upon me, what is the use of my efforts? 

Then there arises the question: Is God partial, showering 
His grace upon some and withholding it from others? And 
then another question arises: What kind of a God is He? 
When we think of divine grace, we think of a personal Being, 
with human attributes, human feelings and emotions, an 
anthropomorphic God. Then again, those who believe in an 
Impersonal God think: How can there be any grace from the 
Impersonal? To them, the Impersonal is like an automaton, 
a mechanism, an abstraction; it has no response. But that 
also is a great misunderstanding. What is God? The Scrip- 
tures tell us that He is Consciousness itself. And whether 
we call Him personal or impersonal does not matter. The 
Infinite Consciousness, in which we all believe, cannot be 
a mechanism, an abstraction. Those who have realized God 

VEDANTA For The Western World 66 

point out that God is personal, but not an anthropomorphic 
idea; He is also impersonal, but not an abstraction. He is 
Infinite Consciousness, beyond both personal and imper- 
sonal. Sri Ramakrishna used to say: "Never finitize the in- 
finite." In other words, never think that what you conceive 
as God is the only conception, the only truth. I would say 
that the best expression, from our human standpoint, of that 
Infinite Reality is the Sanskrit word, Hari, which means, He 
who steals the hearts of mankind the Eternal Beloved. That 
is Godl That Eternal Beloved is within our very souls, and 
without the grace of the Beloved it is not possible to realize 

Now, in answer to the questions: what is the need of our 
struggling if we have to depend upon His grace? and is He 
partial, that He gives His grace to some and withholds His 
grace from others? the Gita points out that He Who is 
within each one of us takes no note of the merit or demerit 
of anyone, but remains covered by our ignorance, and hence 
we become deluded. Now that explains the whole truth: that 
God is residing equally in the heart of the sinner and in the 
heart of the saint; but in the heart of the sinner He is cov- 
ered by the ignorance of the sinner; in the saint that ig- 
norance is removed. 

Now, what is the cause of this covering? The cause is ego! 
Everyone of us thinks that he is independent of God, that we 
have free will. But as a matter of fact without God we are 
mere nothings. Man forgets that, although he is using God's 
life, God's consciousness, he creates, as it were, an inde- 
pendent ego. And then what happens? He is bound by 
Karma, earning merit or demerit within this Karma but 
God remains unaffected. 

In the words of Sri Ramakrishna, the breeze of God's grace 
is blowing continually. You have to set your sail to catch that 
breeze. If you simply say that, since it depends upon grace, 
you need do nothing, or that you can do nothing, or, even, 
that you can do something that is because you think you 
have an independent will. And so long as that ego is there, 
so long as you feel you have a free will, how can you under- 
stand anything about divine grace? 

So, what is the step we must take? The Gita again teaches: 

67 "Divine (grace 

"You must save yourself by your Self/* You are your own 
friend and your own enemy. Forget about grace, while you 
have this ego, so great, so strong! Use your ego, your will, 
to overcome the ego, to surrender the will to the will of God. 
This is the struggle all must make. 

My master used to repeat a beautiful verse from a Vaish- 
nava saint: "There is the grace of the Guru, there is the 
grace of God, there is the grace of his devotees; but for the 
lack of one grace, man ruins himself/' And what is that 
grace? It is the grace of your own mind. Unless you have the 
grace of your own mind, you cannot have that divine grace. 
Although there is the breeze of divine grace blowing, you 
cannot catch that breeze until you have the grace of your own 
mind. In fact, there are stages of development when this 
grace is tangibly felt. 

In the first stage, one has to begin the spiritual life by 
striving, by using the will one has to make an effort. You 
must have intense longing, intense desire to find God. 

But simply to long to find Him will not do. You must 
proceed to the next stage. You must practice spiritual disci- 

This brings you to the third stage: self-surrender. No more 
struggle, no more spiritual disciplines, for you completely 
surrender your ego to God! Then there is a continuous con- 
sciousness of God. 

I will give you an illustration from the life of a disciple of 
Ramakrishna, G. C. Ghosh, a well-known dramatist. He is 
the ideal of self-surrender in this present age. He went to Sri 
Ramakrishna, who told him to practice certain spiritual dis- 
ciplines. But he said he couldn't do it. Then Sri Ramakrishna 
asked him to meditate for ten minutes in the morning and 
ten minutes in the evening. He said he couldn't. Then Sri 
Ramakrishna said: "Very well, then just take the name of 
God once before you go to bed." "I can't promise to do that 
either, for I am a drunkard, and at times I have no con- 
sciousness of whether it is night or day." So Sri Ramakrishna 
said: "All right, give me your power of attorney and I will do 
everything for you. In other words, surrender yourself to 
me." G. C. Ghosh said: "That I will do gladly." But when 
he returned home, he began to think, "Oh, I shall have to do 

VEDANTA For <The Western World 68 

this. How can I do it? I have given myself to Ramakrishna, 
how can I have a will of my own? 1 ' You see, he was what we 
call a sinner, but he was sincere and frank, to the core. So, 
even when he was merely walking, he couldn't think that 
he was walking, but with every step he had to think of Rama- 
krishna. With every breath, he was forced to be conscious of 
the power of Ramakrishna. Once he remarked to some other 
disciples: "If you practice meditation at certain hours, that 
is very good; but with me it is different, I must practice 
meditation every moment of my life." That is self-surrender. 
And when that self-surrender comes, then it is that we realize 
what grace means. 

Now then, what is the ideal that we must follow? I will re- 
peat the same thing I have said again and again before. Try 
to fix your thought upon God. That is the only thing that 
man should do nothing else. Keep your heart upon God. 
True, you will forget many times; but remember a few times 
each day, and gradually your mind will become fixed in God. 

That is the struggle you must make to keep your mind in 
God. I believe in practicing only such disciplines as will help 
us to keep our minds in God. 

Sri Ramakrishna used this illustration: The policeman in 
the dark looks at others with his bull's-eye lantern but no- 
body can see him. With the help of the light, the others can 
also see each other. Now we have to ask this policeman to 
turn his lantern upon his own face. Then only can we see 
him. And this is the situation: we have that light in us 
which comes from God, which gives light to the senses, 
which makes us feel and be conscious, which enables us to 
experience this world. But the light's source we do not know. 
We use that light, but we forget that it is His light. We create 
an ego of our own, which experiences this world by the bor- 
rowed light of God; and we remain bound to the law of 
Karma, bound to birth and death, bound to those three mis- 
eries, suffering, death and ignorance. In order to free our- 
selves from theso bondages we must learn to turn that light 
upon r*xl Himself. The mind runs away, it runs here and 
thert ut keep turning your mind toward God. Through 
practice 'lpne can this be done. As you practice this self- 
surrender, practice thinking of God, meditate upon God, be 

69 'Divine Qrace 

conscious of Him. Then you will begin actually to realize 
His grace. It will be like a magnet drawing the needle unto 

Now, while you are thinking of the Presence of God, there 
are still distractions, there is still darkness, you still see noth- 
ing. You do not intensely feel that presence, there is a "dry- 
ness in you. Then suddenly, when you are least expecting it, 
you feel that, in spite of yourself, your mind is being drawn 
to that magnet, you become unconscious of this world, you 
become conscious of the presence of the Reality, you feel 
the grace, you feel the magnet drawing you. 

You, being trained in the western hemisphere, may say: 
"But, if we fix our minds upon God, what about our life in 
this world, our duties?*' Your ideal is activity. That is only 
an excuse. You can think of God, you can love God, you can 
fix your heart absorbingly on God, and at the same time live 
in the world, attend to your duties in the world. What is the 
purpose of working and living? To find freedom from the 
bondages of misery and death. There is no other purpose. So 
let all your actions, let every moment of your life, even while 
you are attending to your so-called duties, be used as means 
to keep your mind in God, to attain illumination. 

Philosophically, it is obvious that man's finite struggle can- 
not give him the attainment of God, since God is infinite. To 
this Shankara, the great saint-philosopher, points out very 
truly, that it is not through your finite struggles that you 
attain the Infinite, but through the grace of the Infinite. Our 
finite struggles are needed, however, to remove the finite 
obstacle of ignorance. The sun is shining, but the clouds have 
gathered and a gust of wind must come and remove the 
clouds so that the sun may shine upon us. God, the luminous 
sun, is shining within us, but there is a cloud of ignorance 
covering His light. Your finite struggle removes that finite 
ignorance. Liberation is not something you have to achieve, 
it is something you have, it is your very nature. Remove the 
cloud of ignorance, penetrate beyond that cloud and regard 
that which is beyond the cloudthat is the only way. 

That truth is simply stated when we say: "Think ot xl." 
Pray to Him, worship Him, meditate on Him, and \+rtL will 
find that life becomes full of joy and sweetness. I don^ 

VEDANTA For The Western World 70 

how people can live without thinking of God. What have 
they got in their lives? 

You may say that I am a pessimist. Perhaps I am and see 
nothing but troubles and worries in this life. Life seems to 
go on smoothly for some time, but nobody escapes death. 
Where is the only true rest? If you try to rest in anything 
else, it moves away, for that is the nature of everything 
flux, change. So how can any human being of intelligence 
live any other life but the life in God? All the nations of the 
world are committing suicide because they have no God, be- 
cause they have forgotten God. But, I say, none will be lost. 
Hari, He Who steals the hearts of mankind, is within the 
hearts of all, and He will steal the heart of each one, at some 
time or other, in some life or other. Those who are awakened 
do not go to sleep again. 

Strive, struggle, keep your thoughts in God, talk to God, 
sleep with God, eat with God; and I believe, if a few of us 
can do that, it will change the atmosphere of the whole world. 
You all feel, every child feels, that you have to do something 
for the world. Very good. The greatest thing that you can do 
for the world is to turn your face toward God. You will be a 
dynamo you don't have to talk, you don't have to see people 
but you will be a living dynamo. The life that you are liv- 
ing will be reflected upon men's souls, and they also will 
strive for the attainment of that goal. 

Towards ^Meditation 



As IN MATERIAL AFFAIRS, so also in spiritual matters we 
should be perfectly clear and definite in our thoughts and 

The modern man says lightly: "Oh, God is everywhere." 
But when he really tries to think of this, he finds he cannot. 
All these hazy ideas are like those of the so-called worshiper 
of the formless God who, when he comes home from church, 
simply busies himself with his physical affairs as he cannot 
think of and have dealings with God, who to him is in- 
definite, abstract. 

When we have strong body-consciousness, when we take 
our personality to be the only reality, we need a Holy Person- 
ality for our spiritual practice and growth. 

On a lower plane the Absolute becomes abstract, although 
It is real on a higher plane. And remaining on the lower 
plane of form and personality as we do, we cannot counteract 
all bad and unwelcome pictures and thoughts that rise in the 
mind, by means of abstract ideas. We must be able to raise 
opposing good and holy pictures and thoughts to counteract 
them, and here the necessity of a Holy Personality comes in, 
in Whom we find our highest ideals realized. We need a 
definite holy form, so long as we consider our forms to be 
real. But at the same time we must find a connecting link 
between the form and the formless. Form is only a manifes- 
tation of the formless. The Holy Personality is a manifesta- 
tion of the Principle that stands at the back of all. 

The Holy Personality serves as the connecting link be- 
tween the finite and the Infinite, and understood this way it 
satisfies the head and the heart. The intellect wants the In- 
finite, the feelings want the finite, and in the Holy Person- 

VEDANTA For The Western World 72 

ality we find both, if we see it in the right light, i.e., as 
manifestation of the Principle, of which the personality is 
always conscious. Visualization plays a great and important 
part in spiritual life especially at the beginning, when we are 
still on a lower plane, the plane of forms and pictures, tak- 
ing them to be real. The holy forms are always to be looked 
upon as luminous and living, forming parts of an Infinite 
Ocean of Light. 

Think of the Holy Form as rising out of an Infinite Ocean 
of Light, and after that, if you want, you may think that it 
again gets merged into this Infinite Ocean of Light. 

As the mind of the aspirant grows, it comes to have a very 
vivid imagination with reference to everythinggood, bad 
and indifferent. And the best way to counteract the bad fan- 
tasies is to have good fantasies, which must be made even 
more vivid and strong than the others. 

The Holy Personality calls up in us the sense of Purity, the 
sense of Divinity, and at the same time connects us with the 
Infinite, the Formless, the One Principle, in which all things 
have their being. In calling up this Holy Form, one may use 
the help of the sound-symbol: the Holy Name or Om. And 
this may be used first with reference to the form and then 
also to the formless. 

Every time your mind threatens to lose its balance, repeat 
the sound and try to think of the Holy Form in the center of 
your consciousness. The sound is a symbol of Divinity, the 
form also is a symbol of Divinity. We use both the symbols 
to call up the Divine Consciousness. With the help of the 
Holy Personality, we try to realize the Principle, manifesting 
Itself as Name and Form, and we begin to feel that we too 
are a manifestation of that Principle, that everybody and 
everything is a manifestation of that Principle. 

After getting a glimpse of the Immanent in the Holy Per- 
sonality we get a glimpse of the Divine in ourselves and also 
in others. We have to learn to see the Divine in all forms, 
good and bad, without, of course, losing the distinction be- 
tween good and bad. And then the bad forms cannot affect us 
at all. And we should try to see the Divine not only in the 
forms that dwell in the physical world, but also in those that 
rise in the mind. 

73 Towards ^Meditation 

For those that do not like to dwell on the form, the only 
way is to recognize the Divine in oneself and also in others. 
The body is a temple, in which the soul dwells: God is the 
Soul of the soul. One point is always to be borne in mind: 
we should stress the soul more than the body and God more 
than the soul. The body is the dwelling-house of the soul 
and God is the Soul of the soul. If you do not stress this, it 
becomes idolatry. 

Even idol-worship with reference to a Holy Personality is 
far better than worship of our body. 

The immanent aspect of the Divine is greatly to be 
stressed: without realizing the immanent aspect, it is not pos- 
sible to realize the transcendent. 

Visualization plays a very important part in the spiritual 
life of the beginner and in all this visualization a luminous 
and living form is to be called up. The Infinite Ocean of 
Light takes shape as the Holy Personality. 

In Tantrika Sadhana the following method is used: 

The aspirant, after taking his seat, tries to fix the mind at 
the center of his consciousness, thinks of it as luminous, 
thinks that this luminosity forms part of an Infinite Ocean 
of Luminosity, into which he merges his gross body as well 
as all physical forms, then his subtle body, as well as all sub- 
tle forms and finally his causal body, as well as all causal 
forms. He tries to think of that One Undivided Ocean of 
Luminosity, that is living, being the source of all life, that is 
conscious, being the source of all Consciousness. Then he 
tries to become merged in that. And if one could do that 
really, if one could really dwell on that, not as a mere imag- 
ination, then one gets Samadhi, a high spiritual conscious- 
ness. But most people have to be satisfied only with the 
thought of the Unity. Even that is helpful. Next you think 
that out of this Infinite Ocean of Luminosity rise your own 
form and also the form of jhe Holy Personality you have 
chosen as the object of your worship. 

Think of your body as a luminous body, i.e., make the old 
perish and come to have a new body, fashioning it out of this 
luminosity. This is one of the steps in higher Tantrika Sa- 
dhana, with Unity at the background. One should forget 
one's own form, and should worship the Divine Personality. 

VEDANTA For The Western World 74 

One may dwell on this form along with the repetition of 
some holy sound-symbol. And when one is not in a meditative 
mood, one may go on with Japam, repeating the Holy Name 
or Symbol a thousand or two thousand times, without any 
break. It does not matter, even if it is a little mechanical. 
Practicing this way, one may later on find meditation easier. 

Hold on to the sound and think of the meaning. If we are 
able to do this for some time, great steadiness will come. 
Then our muddled brain will become somewhat clearer, our 
thinking and feeling will become more definite. Japam re- 
moves many an obstacle and prepares the aspirant for medita- 

Whether you feel inclined or not, do it, go on with it. Why 
should you stop it, merely because your mind does not feel 
inclined to do it? Why own defeat? Why be deceived by your 
own mind? Go on repeating the Holy Name, or sound-sym- 
bol, and thinking of the ideal it represents, and never allow 
yourself to be defeated. Go on repeating it, so that your ear 
may hear the sound, and your mind may dwell on its mean- 

The Holy Sound gives a sort of support to the mind. When 
there is any great trouble, one should try to be a little calm 
and introspective, and should pray to the Divine from the 
very bottom of one's heart. Why allow yourself to be swept 
off your feet, when any trouble arises? The moment you let 
go the chain, you are lost. 

When there is absolutely no help, the Divine is your only 
help, and by the Divine we mean that which is in us, the 
Soul of our soul, this Soul of all. 

In our stage Japam is one of the most important practices. 
And it takes us nearer and nearer to the Soul of our soul. 

SM Ramakrishna says: 

"Each Japam is like a link of a chain, and holding this 
chain, you reach the very end of the chain, that to which it is 

So it is by proceeding step by step, as it were, holding on to 
the chain ami never letting it go, and that, in course of time, 
we reach our goal. The sound calls up the thought, the 
thought brings us in touch with the Divine. And if Japam 
does not appeal, then you may have some prayer, constantly 

75 Towards ^Meditation 

repeating this prayer, making the sound audible only to your 
ears. And also think of the Divine. Your prayer should not be 
aimless: it should be directed towards the Divine. 

Even when we seem to be swept away, let us try to hold on 
to the chain. Very often we magnify the danger that threat- 
ens us. Afterwards we find that we have been enlarging it too 
much with our vivid imagination. The situation may seem 
bad, but usually it is not so awful as we suppose. Very often 
it does not take such an awful turn as we imagine. And even 
if matters are really awful, why give up the struggle and 
allow yourself to be defeated without any resistance? Always 
go on with your Japam, your prayer, in such cases, and try to 
meet the situation as well as you can. Even if you are de- 
feated, your defeat will prove to be a stepping-stone to 

When the storm is raging, we should hold on to the chain 
Japam and prayer. If you do not, you cut yourself away 
from the higher forces and allow yourself to be defeated by 
the lower ones. And then you have to suffer. 

When you try to be in tune with the higher forces, you 
may find the discrepancy between the higher and the lower 
forces. But then you don't feel any discrepancy between the 
higher forces and yourself. On the other hand, if you identify 
yourself with the lower forces, you find the discrepancy not 
only between the higher forces and the lower ones, but also 
between the higher forces and yourself. So you come to have 
a double discrepancy. The discrepancy between the higher 
forces and the lower ones cannot be avoided, but there need 
not be any discrepancy between the higher forces and your- 
self. We lose sight of the Divine and the higher path com- 
pletely if we stop all struggle and are fully overpowered by 
the lower forces. The whole thing comes to this: you need a 
ladder, to take you up, but you kick it away just at the 
moment you need it most. And then you can never get up. 
And Japam, prayer and meditation form the ladder that 
should never be given up. 

In our case Japam is the only thing we can really do, and 
it is out of courtesy that we sometimes give it the name of 
meditation. There can be no question of doing anything 
higher like real meditation, unless we prepare ourselves first 

VEDANTA For The Western World 76 

through ethical culture, performance of duty, Japam, pray- 
ers, regular readings from the holy books, trying to dwell on 
their meaning as much as possible these preliminary prac- 
tices help us in withdrawing the mind from the manifold 
distractions, and then in making us dwell on holy thoughts, 
naturally with breaks in the beginning. Later on through 
persistent practice, we are able to continue the thought- 
current in an unbroken way. 

As we become pure and purer in body and mind, in 
thought, word and deed, we are able to have greater and 
greater concentration, better and better meditation. And 
then, in course of time, we come in touch with the Divine, 
in both His Personal and Impersonal aspects. Then within 
our own selves, we feel the contact between the finite and the 
Infinite, between the soul and God, the Soul of our soul, 
the World-Soul. Meditation thus attains its goal, the highest 
state of superconsciousness, in which the soul comes into 
direct touch with the Divine Reality, its true Self, and attains 
its natural perfection and freedom, peace and blessedness. 


Both good and evil belong to the relative plane. There is 
a difference between good and bad, but both belong to the 
relative plane, the plane of phenomena. 

The thin cloud reflects the light, the dark one also, but 
very little. And when the thick cloud becomes thin, then it 
reflects the light all the more. The real substance is not the 
cloud, neither the thin, nor the thick one, but the light. Both 
the thick and the thin clouds only limit the light, i.e., the 
cloud is the limitation that must be got rid of. 

Even when we speak of God and the soul, this is limitation, 
but the highest form of limitation. Since we are still on the 
staircase and not on the terrace, we should think of the 
higher parts and the lower parts, stressing the steps very 
much, but always remembering that our goal is beyond all 
steps, beyond the whole staircase. So long as we worship, so 
long as there is the worshiper and the object of worship, even 
in the subtlest form, it is dualism. Monism is a state, an 

77 Towards ^Meditation 

actual experience, but all these steps take us slowly to the 
final realization. It is a graduated course. 

So, now, we need not worry about the One without a Sec- 
ond, about getting merged into the One, but we should see 
that we bring the One into the many. You need not be 
afraid of getting merged as this will take millions and mil- 
lions of years. So there is no imminent danger of your losing 
yourself and getting merged into the One. 

In the path of devotion, the aspirant always has something 
to support him, and all need an amount of personal support, 
a Holy Personality, to some extent. 

If you feel that you are drowned in an Infinite Ocean of 
Consciousness you feel that your personality is something 
subtle, that has become gross. Think that both the vast mass 
of light, your object of worship, and the small particle of 
light are drowned in a vast, infinite ocean of light. 

First we think more or less of the body only, and there is 
only an indefinite idea of the Principle of Life, standing at 
the back of ourselves, of everything, then we begin to stress 
the Principle of Life more than the body and try to sec the 
Divine spark living in all bodies, and giving life to all. 

It is possible for a devotee to love the Formless as much as 
God with form. This is only a question of temperament. In 
this, there are three steps: 

1) with form and with attributes, 

2) without form and with attributes, 

3) without form and without attributes. 

In the greatest Incarnations and Prophets you see a mani- 
festation of the Purity, Knowledge, Love, etc., that are god- 
like. And at the nucleus of our small personality there is this 
same purity, knowledge, love, etc., but all covered with igno- 
rance. Our personality is a combination of the True Self, and 
the false self. We forget the true Self and identify ourselves 
with the false self. The spark of light forgets its light-nature 
and identifies itself with the cloud-nature, and then all the 
troubles and miseries of life arise. 

The body may be the center of our consciousness. The 
mind may be the center of our consciousness. The little soul 
may be the center of our consciousness. The Infinite may be 
the center of our consciousness. And our whole attitude, all 

VEDANTA For The Western World 78 

our actions and thoughts depend upon what center of con- 
sciousness we have chosen, and where we have our center of 

All our thoughts and ideas and imaginations must be clear- 
cut, definite, not hazy and vague. Very often the church-goer 
goes to church and tries to pray there to something hazy, 
indefinite, vague, feeling himself to be nothing. But when 
he comes out again, he stresses his personality all the more 
in his every-day actions and thoughts and does not believe 
himself to be nothing. Our prayers, our worship, etc., must 
be directed towards something definite, be it in the form of 
a human personality or in some other non-human form. 

So long as we take our personality to be real, we must also 
take other forms to fcc real and have a Holy Personality to 
center our thoughts and feelings upon. This may be a Christ, 
a Buddha, a Ramakrishna, etc. 

We have got two forms of consciousness: we make the soul 
the center of our consciousness and feel the Infinite in that, 
or we make the Infinite the center of our consciousness and 
feel the soul as a manifestation of this Infinite. Making our 
soul the center of our consciousness, we feel this Infinite in 
the soul. Making the Infinite the center of our consciousness, 
we feel that the soul is its manifestation. We come to feel the 
Infinite Ocean of Light joining and combining every point of 
the circle. 

At the beginning this may be a fantasy, but ultimately it 
becomes an experience. 

As regards our spiritual practice we must be very definite, 
do away with all hazy thoughts and feelings. If you are able to 
catch the Formless, do it by all means. If not, take hold of 
the form arid realize the formless in the form, nex. realize 
the formless in yourself, then the formless in all. 

There are some devotees, who in a certain mood, would 
have the form and the attributes, and in another mood the 
formless with attributes. At every step we must be in touch 
with the Divine, v hatever be our mood. 

Sri Ramakrishna was very fond of a Sanscrit passage: 

"When I think of myself as identified with the body, I am 
Thy servant and Thou art my Master, my will is controlled 
by Thy Will. 

79 Towards ^Meditation 

"When I think of myself as a Jiva (individualized soul) as 
distinct from the body, I am the part and Thou art the 

"When I recognize the spiritual Principle in me as distinct 
from body and mind and Jiva, I realize that I am one with 
the Divine." 

During all our practices we must take a definite standpoint, 
from whence to proceed. A dualist with experience is in- 
finitely better than a monist without experience. 

There are some aspirants who are not satisfied with having 
only one form of meditation. They think of the Infinite 
Ocean, in which there is the worshiper and the worshiped. 
The devotee thinks more of the Divine than of himself. Then 
he tries to think of the Principle in the object of worship and 
in himself. The next step will be that both these are merged, 
that the bubble and the wave are merged into the Infinite 

So long as there is even the slightest clinging to personality, 
one passes through birth and death. When this clinging stops, 
then the water-drop becomes one with the ocean. 

Before we die, we must get at least some glimpses, and then 
move on. If in this life we don't succeed, begin again and 
again, move on life after life till you reach the goal. 

If some day you are going to realize the Self, why not try to 
do it now? So the ideal of Vedanta is to realize Truth while 
we are alive. "Until you fall asleep, until you die, busy your- 
self with Vedantic thoughts/' 


The Toga of ^Meditation 1 


MEDITATION is THE very center and heart of spiritual life. It 
matters not whether you are a follower of the path of Karma, 
or of devotion or knowledge, whether you are a Christian or 
a Buddhist or a Hindu, sooner or later you have to practice 
meditation, you have to become absorbed in divine contem- 
plation; there is no other way. You may begin in divergent 
ways according to your beliefs and temperament, but as you 
proceed, as you approach the center and heart of religion 
and religious practice, you come to that center which is 
called meditation. 

The yoga of meditation was propounded by the great Yogi 
Patanjali. Patanjali was not the founder of this path of medi- 
tation. There were already existent different systems of spirit- 
ual practices which he studied and followed, and afterwards 
systematized, edited and compiled into aphoristic form which 
became known as the Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali. 

The outstanding peculiarity of this philosophy of Patan- 
jali is that what he propounds has nothing to do with any 
theory or dogma or presupposition. Even whether you be- 
lieve in God or not does not matter. 

Patanjali was one of those philosophers who claimed that 
belief in God is not a necessary prerequisite for spiritual life. 
To him religion is experience; therefore, whether you have 
theories, or preconceived ideas, whether you believe in God 
or not, does not matter. 

To the seeker after truth, who follows certain principles 
and makes the experiment, the truth will be revealed, be- 
cause truth is truth, an existent factor, not anything imag- 
inary, but a matter of fact and experience. Patanjali, how- 

1 Notes of a lecture. 


8 1 The Toga of ^Meditation 

ever, says that belief in God is one of the means to practice 

What God is, what that Reality is, nobody has been able to 
express in words. To define God is to limit Him, to finitize 

So Patanjali tells us that our belief in God is one of the 
means, and not the only means, to reach the ultimate Reality, 
and also gives us various principles and methods of life and 
procedure to follow for the attainment of that reality. These 
principles can be accepted and practiced universally by the 
followers of any path or religion. 

Yoga has been defined by Patanjali as the complete control 
of the waves of the mind. One who can control the waves of 
the mind attains Yoga, that state when the true nature of the 
Self becomes revealed. 

This control of the waves of the mind is not so simple as it 
would at first appear. It is a complete transformation of the 
character, when the mind becomes absolutely pure and tran- 
quil. St. Paul said: "Be ye transformed by the renewal of 
your own mind." That is it, and this control is the blessed- 
ness of purity which Jesus spoke of when He said: "Blessed 
are the pure in heart for they shall see God." He meant that 
complete transformation, that complete overhauling of the 

In every religion we find the same truth taught, that the 
Kingdom of God is within; the Reality is to be found within 
our own Self. As long as we forget this truth, as long as we 
seek the Reality outside of ourselves so long shall we be dis- 
appointed. We must learn to look within. 

The question may well be asked, if the Kingdom of God is 
within, what obstructs our knowledge of that Kingdom? Why 
do we not experience that Heaven? The obstruction to this 
knowledge is the restlessness of the mind due to the waves or 
impressions that have accumulated there. There are innu- 
merable impressions in the mind, because no thought, no ac- 
tion is ever lost. We send out a thought of love or a thought 
of hatred, and this thought creates a peculiar impression in 
the mind. A thought may be forgotten, but it is never lost. 
It leaves an impression in the mind. So we see that the mind 
is filled with countless impressions, not only of this life but 

VEDANTA For The Western World 82 

of many past lives, and to control these impressions of the 
mind which we have accumulated by the very nature of our 
existence would seem a tremendous task. 

These innumerable impressions have been classified by 
Patanjali into five divisionsthe five causes of impurity that 
exist in the mind. The first is avidya, ignorance, which causes 
us to forget our true nature, and hides the vision of the real 
Self. From ignorance springs ego. With the sense of ego arise 
attachment or attraction, repulsion and the will to live. 
Buddha calls this will to live, tanha, or thirst for life and 
enjoyment. Christ referred to this thirst when He said: "He 
that loveth his life shall lose it." 

These are the impurities, the impressions, the waves that 
exist in the mind and obstruct our vision of the Reality, our 
entrance into the Kingdom of God. 

To show us how to overcome these distractions and achieve 
that blessed purity through which the truth of God may be 
revealed in our own souls, Patanjali evolved a system which 
he called the eight-limbed Yoga. These eight limbs are: 
yama, niyama (which include the ethical practices), asana 
(posture), pranayama (regulation of breath), pratyahara (the 
indrawing of the senses from sense objects), dharana (concen- 
tration), dhyana (meditation), and samadhi (absorption). 

Before explaining these limbs of Yoga, it would be well to 
explain in brief the ideal of ethical life as taught by the 
Hindu seers. There have been scholars in the West who have 
brought charge against the Hindu philosophy that ethics 
play no important part in the religion of India; whereas, on 
the contrary, the Hindu philosophers and mystics clearly 
state that, in order to have the transcendental experience of 
the Reality, though it is necessary to go beyond both good 
and evil, beyond ethics, moral life is the very foundation of 
spiritual life. Nevertheless, we must rise above this founda- 
tion. This does not mean that we become unmoral. Just as 
a flower gives out fragrance without any consciousness of do- 
ing so, but becauoe it is fragrant by its very nature, in the 
same way our natures must become such that we do what is 
good and moral without any consciousness of being good and 
moral; we become moral because holiness has become a part 

83 "The Toga of ^Meditation 

of our very nature. This is what is meant by transcending 
ethical life. 

As a house that is built upon quicksand cannot stand, 
neither can a spiritual life stand unless it is built firmly on 
the rock foundation of ethical and moral life. All great spirit- 
ual teachers insist, however, that spiritual life is something 
far greater, far grander, far nobler than moral life. 

Now let us consider yama, the first of these eight limbs of 
yoga. Yama includes ahimsa (not hurting any cieature), satya 
(truthfulness), asteya (non-stealing), brahmacharya (chastity), 
and aparigraha (non-cove tousness). In order that we can prac- 
tice the virtue of ahimsa, we must not hurt any creature by 
word, thought or deed; we must learn to feel unity, oneness 
and sympathy with every living being. 

Next comes satya, truthfulness in thought, word and deed. 
Speak the truth but do not tell a harsh truth. We must always 
consider why we are speaking the truth; is it to help or to 
hurt another? To tell a harsh truth which would hurt an- 
other is to go against the very first principle, ahimsa, and it 
is unethical. Truth must always be agreeable and beneficial, 

Non-stealing comes next. This may seem quite strange to 
many, because the habit of stealing as we understand it be- 
longs to a very few selfish individuals. Few of us would actu- 
ally vSteal the possessions of another. Yet, according to Patan- 
jali, we are all thieves at heart, every one of us. How? Every 
time we label anything as ours and call it our own, we are 
stealing. Nothing belongs to us. Everything belongs to Pra- 
kriti nature. The idea of ownership comes through igno- 
rance. Non-stealing therefore means the ideal of non-pos- 

The next ideal that follows is chastity, continence. To at- 
tain the heights of spiritual realization there must be the 
practice of continence in thought, word and deed. 

Then comes non-cove tousness. We must covet nothing, 
possess nothing. 

These constitute the ethical practices of life. 

To know about the ethical practices, to grasp their impor- 
tance intellectually is not enough. We must practice them. But 
the question is, how? We are all creatures of habit. If we are 

VEDANTA For The Western World 84 

good it is because we have formed the habit of being good; 
if we are bad, we are bad in spite of ourselves, it has become 
our habit. Therefore, in order to rid ourselves of this present 
bundle of habits we have to create a new bundle of habits, 
which brings us to the next step: 

Niyama consists of the practices of purity, contentment, 
austerity, and self -surrender. 

The first of these regular habits which must be formed is 
purity, which means purification, both external and internal. 
External purification is a simple matter as we know. We 
bathe every day as a matter of course, but with little or no 
thought behind the action. Now our daily bathing must be- 
come a purification ceremony; the temple of God must be 
consciously purified that the God within may become mani- 
fest. That is the ideal of external purification. 

As the body becomes unclean if it is not cleansed each day, 
so also does the mind. Therefore we must practice inner 
purification every day. Within everyone of us there is the 
sense of ego, of pride, jealousy, hatred, etc. The method of 
this inner purification by which we may be cleansed of these 
impurities is to feel the presence of the Divine within, and 
to feel that all the impurities and all ignorance have been 
consumed by that Presence. This must become a daily habit; 
wd must feel that Presence, and meditate upon It. 

Next comes contentment. Whenever conditions do not suit 
us we want to change them. We feel sure that if we but 
change our environment everything will be different, and 
we shall be happy. Outward conditions can never be changed. 
We cannot change the weather, so what do we do? We adapt 
ourselves to it. If it is cold outside we change the condition 
in the home. In the same way we must change our inner 
condition. The outward conditions exist because of the inner 
condition. Change that, reform yourself and the whole 
world becomes reformed. Before you try to reform another 
reform yourself. 

Study is the nexi regular habit to be formed. By study is 
not meant merely the reading of books. The study of differ- 
ent books, of different scriptures and different philosophies is 
very good for a beginner, but when once we take to the 
spiritual life seriously and have a conclusive intellectual un- 

85 The Toga of ^Meditation 

derstanding, then study must be only of such as will help 
contemplation. Study also means Japam, or the repetition of 
the sacred word and meditation on its meaning. This practice 
of study brings great purity of heart. 

Then comes the regular habit of surrendering ourselves to 
the Reality. Though you may not know what that Reality is, 
you must feel that there is a Reality, an infinite power, and 
you must surrender yourself to that. If you believe in God, 
surrender yourself to Him every day. Make this self-surren- 
der a regular habit. 

The foregoing principles are the foundation of spiritual 

The first step in the higher practices to be followed is 
called Asana or posture. Posture has been defined by Patan- 
jali as that which is firm and pleasant. There are no gymnas- 
tics in this practice. The only principle is that the upper part 
of the body must be kept straight. As one proceeds, as one 
grows and there comes certain spiritual unfoldment, many 
experiences will be felt coming through the spiritual nerve 
in the spine. Therefore, the spine must be kept perfectly 

The next practice is known as Pranayama or regulation of 
breath. Breath controls thought. When you are restless, when 
you are angry, watch your breath. When you are calm, tran- 
quil, watch your breath. As you watch your breathing, you 
will notice that there are different rhythms at different times, 
according to your thoughts. When you feel love you will see 
that the breath is different than when you feel anger or 
hatred. Therefore, Patanjali tells us that if we can change the 
regulation of our breath we can gain control over our 
thoughts, and to do this he gave certain methods for regulat- 
ing the breath which would bring calmness and tranquility 
in our thoughts. 

Pratyahara which is the next practice has been beautifully 
described by Sri Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gita: "When, 
like the tortoise withdrawing its limbs, he can withdraw his 
senses from their objects, then his wisdom becomes steady." 
The secret of this practice is that we must learn to be at- 
tached and at the same time detached. We must be able to 
apply our minds to whatever we do, and yet be able to with- 

VEDANTA For The Western World 86 

draw the mind completely at will. When the tortoise with- 
draws its limbs nothing from outside can hurt it, so when 
we learn to withdraw our minds from sense objects they 
are freed from distracting thoughts. For this practice of 
Pratyahara Patanjali has given certain instructions and rules 
which, if followed, will lead to that "steady wisdom.'* 

Now we come to the practice of concentration. Concentra- 
tion does not mean fixing one's gaze upon any external ob- 
ject. It means we have to concentrate upon the Reality which 
is within. Within this body which is the temple of God- 
there are spiritual centers of consciousness, not imaginary, 
but very real, and it is upon one or the other of these cen- 
ters of consciousness that we have to concentrate. 

For the practice of concentration it is very necessary to 
follow the instructions of a Guru or teacher who has known 
and realized these spiritual centers; and to follow these in- 
structions one must have faith in the words of the teacher. 
Faith is an important factor in every department of life. Just 
as a student of physics, for instance, must have faith in the 
words of the professor until he has experimented and at- 
tained certain results for himself, so must the spiritual as- 
pirant have faith in the words of his Guru, until he has ex- 
perimented and attained certain results. The teacher will 
instruct him according to his growth and development, and 
if these instructions are followed faithfully and perseveringly, 
the aspirant will attain definite experiences for himself. 

Patanjali did not insist upon one object of concentration 
for everybody, but suggested different forms to suit the be- 
liefs and tendencies of the individual. One suggestion he 
gives is to concentrate upon the effulgent light which is 
within the heart. Another suggestion is to concentrate 
upon the heart of a perfected soul. 

Patanjali also speaks of the knowledge which sometimes 
comes in dreams. These dreams are rare indeed, and in the 
heart of the spiritual aspirant who gets such a dream there 
is created a deep and lasting impression, and he points out 
that one blessed with such a dream could make that the 
object of his concentration. 

Thus there are many ideals upon which to concentrate, 
depending upon the growth and the temperament of the 

87 *fhe Toga of ^Meditation 

individual. It is difficult for the student to decide for himself 
which ideal he should adopt. Concentration can never be 
learned from the study of books. There is not one method for 
all; what may help one may harm another. Therefore, the 
need of a spiritual teacher cannot be too strongly emphasized. 

The next stage is reached through the practice of concen- 
tration. It is called Dhyana, meditation. Through the prac- 
tice of meditation the mind flows towards the one object of 
concentration without a break. 

The mind by its very nature is always in a state of flux. 
One thought follows another constantly. It is possible of 
course to limit the mind to one certain subject of thought. 
For instance, one may meditate upon the life of Christ or 
any great soul, or upon the ideas expressed in a beautiful 
poem, but that is not what is meant by meditation, though 
such practices are helpful aids to meditation. The mind is 
still in a flux, moving in a larger space, following a series of 

The practice of meditation is to hold the mind to one 
thought. In the beginning other thoughts will intrude, gaps 
will be created, but again it must be applied to the one 
thought, until gradually the gaps will be lessened and there 
will be no more intervals; the one thought will continue 
uninterruptedly. Just as each point of the electric current, 
though separate, flows in one continuous stream and pro- 
duces a flickerless light, or just as oil being poured from one 
vessel to another does not break, so when the mind flows 
toward the object of concentration, toward the spiritual ideal, 
without break or interval, there comes that state known as 
Dhyana which has been translated as meditation or con- 

This state brings us to the next stage known as Samadhi. 
Ordinarily the word samadhi has been used to mean the 
transcendental consciousness, the revelation, but Patanjali 
uses it as a stage of absorption, the door that leads to the 
transcendental experience. 

This samadhi means identity with the object of meditation. 
Thus we see how important it is that the object of our medi- 
tation be divine and uplifting. 

From this absorption we reach the stage in spiritual prog- 

VEDANTA For The Western World 88 

rcss which is technically called Samyama, which means the 
complete forgetfulness of everything external or internal; 
there remains nothing but the object of meditation. Time 
itself is annihilated. 

At this point there come visions, spiritual experiences and 
sometimes occult powers. Many aspirants in the course of 
their progress stop here. When these visions and spiritual 
experiences come, when they experience that joy which the 
Christian mystics call ecstasy, they feel there is nothing 
greater, nothing superior to be experienced. So they stop, and 
make no further progress. 

Visions, spiritual ecstasies, occult powers are great in them- 
selves, but there is a realm far beyond visions and ecstasies. 
Occult powers may come, but if you are tempted to use them, 
the door to spiritual progress is closed and you have to learn 
the secrets by which these powers can be controlled, and 
become once more a simple and humble seeker. 

By transcending these powers and visions, the door to 
spiritual life is opened, and we experience samadhi, the 
transcendental consciousness. We come face to face with the 
Reality; then we too can say with Christ, "I and my Father 
are one." 


The T^eturn to 


THE ATTITUDE of Western man is going through many 
changes, changes in regard to things which he took for 
granted were settled. Most Westerners have no doubt thought 
that their parents had cleared much rubbish out of their 
lives, rubbish which the grandpan its had somehow tolerated. 
Whatever happened we should never again clutter ourselves 
with superstitions and tabus. The attitude was really not 
much in advance of the bitter couplet in Butler's "Hudibras": 

He knew what's what; and that's as high 
As metaphysic wit can fly. 

Perhaps no subject shows more clearly the way in which cas- 
ual and hasty rejection of the past is now giving place to re- 
consideration, than what is happening about ritual* In all 
progressive countries and especially among the democracies 
the thought of ritual, of expressing a condition, of creating a 
state of mind not by words but by behaviour, has seemed for 
long simply ridiculous. All that was a hang-over from effete 
feudalism. Of course you could dress up if you liked, stage a 
show on the campus, be a self-styled knight of this or that 
fancy order or even if you happened to be a Catholic carry 
on the old forms with a sense that it was just because they 
were genuine antiques that you liked them. The thought 
that a "behaviour pattern" could actually influence thought 
and will and character, that could not be entertained for a 
moment by a rationalist. 

Yet it is psychology which has breached the bank of this 
self-assured belief. Psychology pointed out, first how little we 
are influenced by argument or oratory. The one method of 
influencing public opinion which the democratic rationalist 


VEDANTA For rhe Western World 90 

had held to, was shown to be almost worthless. That led to 
the further inquiry: how are men influenced, how is it that 
change does come about? It became clear that we are influ- 
enced by habit formation, by what we do and especially by 
those particular behaviours which we regularly and precisely 
repeat. Further, such behaviours are all the more efficacious 
the less we attempt to interfere with them consciously. Every- 
one knows that reason will not prevent you falling off a 
bicycle however hard you argue with yourself and however 
clearly you understand the reason why you fall off, if you 
cross your hands putting the right hand on the left handle 
and the left hand on the right handle. There are certain deep 
motivations that can be set in motion only by physical prac- 
tices and when they are in train can be kept going only by 
obeying rules and not letting the critical intelligence inter- 
fere as long as the action is being performed. This fact, of 
action depending on something deeper than argued thought, 
is illustrated by the doggerel distich: 

The centipede was happy, until a frog in fun 
Said, which leg, please, comes after which? 
This raised her doubts to such a pitch, 
She fell confounded in the ditch, 
Not knowing how to run. 

It is with this strange paradox, that we do a thing the better 
by not knowing too much about it, that ritual deals and can 
deal as no other approach permits. For ritual is the recogni- 
tion of "knack," that an art and craft, if it is in your hand is 
all the better for not being in your head, or at least in that 
part of it which is given over to the describing in words and 
the criticising by arguments the processes that go on in the 
rest of the body-mind. 

Once, however, we allow that certain "behaviour patterns" 
are the best and perhaps the only way of getting the whole 
body-mind to take up a certain attitude and to maintain it, 
the question arises which of the many patterns we can choose 
is the best. They cannot all be equally valuable. Some, for 
instance, have in them much that is purely magical. That is 
not to discuss what is magic and whether it may not at times 

9 1 Tike Return to Ritual 

work. It is simply to point out that in any rite which includes 
magical practices, by so much the rite's value as a psycho- 
physical training is impaired. Military drill is a very effica- 
cious ritual, much more so than any number of orations on 
patriotism, but drill would be far less efficacious if some of 
the maneuvers were not intended to set up conditioned re- 
flexes in those drilled but were supposed to cast a spell on the 
enemy. Other rituals have combined with them ancient prac- 
tices which once had point but now have none. For instance 
were we thinking of reviving the religious rites of ancient 
Egypt we might well find some which were valuable for the 
purpose we have in view. But we should certainly not be able 
to take over the full ritual corpus; for example the Sed Fes- 
tival, which had to do with the belief that the Pharaoh should 
and could be rejuvenated, we should have to omit. There- 
fore when we are considering a scientific revaluation of ritual 
and the selection of those rites and religious functions which 
are most effective on the body-mind we have to consider two 
main things. The first is Use and Wont. Certain symbols are 
familiar to us; others, which as far as we know are "objec- 
tively" as efficacious and inoffensive, awake in us misgiving 
and dislike simply because they are unfamiliar. We find in 
them associations which those who are used to them do not 
see. For example, take the two great rites from the Chris- 
tian Church. To those who had never heard of Baptism a 
Baptist service would seem ludicrous. While to those who 
had never known of Totemism the sacrament of Communion 
through bread and wine thought of as flesh and blood would 
seem revolting. On the other hand the great Puritan revolu- 
tion which swept the religious life of the Near Eastthe Nile 
and the Levantin the 7th Century, B.C. has made all those 
whose religious practices descend from that source unable to 
understand the sacramental and ritualistic worship of the 
generative function. To them such symbolism seems simply 
degraded and disgusting. We have, then, in the first place to 
choose those symbols which upset least the social heredity to 
which we belong. It is probably little use trying to teach 
ourselves to adopt a symbolism which is alien to us. By the 
time we have made ourselves by reason tolerant of forms 
which at first sight were puzzling, grotesque and even repul- 

VEDANTA For The Western World 92 

sive, all natural enthusiasm has gone. Deep devotion is not 
won by the way of indifferent toleration. Secondly, quite 
apart from our social heredity, each of us is personally af- 
fected to different degrees by different symbols. As the task 
betore all those who would understand is to grasp, or rather 
to be grasped by, the idea of the Godhead Transcendent and 
equally Immanent, it follows that Deity is of His Nature in- 
expressible in our present state of consciousness. Whether, 
then, we think of Him as with form or as without form the 
very fact of our thinking of Him immensely lessens what He 
is. The Puritan, using no forms and feeling himself superior 
to the ritualist who uses forms, is not necessarily advanced. 
Indeed he may find that he has, in spite of his intentions but 
because of the limitations of his mind and the immensity of 
the Mystery he worships, fallen back behind the ritualist. 
Many a Puritan, as we see with the Jews for example, while 
refusing imagery nevertheless, in the mind, relapsed into a 
crude anthropomorphism which the more elaborate and ritu- 
alistic religions avoided. Yet though the Puritan must not im- 
pose his bareness and emptiness on the ritualist, he may claim 
a tolerance for himself and his via negativa. Probably also what 
he is asking for is not a complete banishment of form but 
for forms through another sense than through the eye. There 
are three great symbolic methods and ritual activities whereby 
man reminds himself of the Inexpressible. The first is through 
sight and touch, through relics, sacraments and functions. 
The second is through sound. Many Puritans are just as 
much symbolists as any Priest, but their symbol is conveyed 
through the ear. To such, music is the pattern through which 
Perfection delegates itself and poetry is also another aid. 
Music, however, is the purest help because in it no w r ord 
interferes to limit the limitless, for all definition is limita- 
tion. The third great avenue of symbolism is not through the 
eye or through the ear but through the whole bodythat 
is the kinesthetic expression of worship which is shown in 
the dance. We are probably too self-conscious to be able to 
revive that behaviour pattern and yet there seems little doubt 
that many of us are predominantly kinesthetic types. Danc- 
ing has seldom been more popular than it is today. A false 
rationalism makes us believe that we can only have a high 

93 he Return to Ritual 

and advanced experience if we use reason and logic with 
perhaps a little visual symbolism. The Sufis were not un- 
subtle thinkers nor unlofty livers yet they used the dance 
regularly in worship. It is also of interest to note in this re- 
spect that the Sufis being a branch of Islamism were denied 
visual symbolism. The line, however, along which ritual 
might follow up a promising research would be in the direc- 
tion of music, of symbolism through the ear. Molinos the 
Quietist Mystic gave as a formula for approaching the Un- 
nameable, "Silence of the mouth, silence of the mind, silence 
of the will." That silence, that allaying of the ego's tumult, 
that stilling of the waves of the mind is an art which needs 
every aid. Many, to whom visual symbolism is not a medium 
but a hindrance, not a lens but a thick stained-glass window, 
would find in carefully applied music an instrument whereby 
to draw aside the flashing meshes of maya. 

^^S^^S>^^S>^>S>^^S> t ^f^^^^ 

Religion and Temperament 


"OuR HOLY FATHERS hcrebefore taught us that we should 
know the measure of our gift, and work upon that; not tak- 
ing upon us by feigning more than we have in feeling. . . . 
Who hath grace, be it never so little, and leaveth wilfully the 
working thereof, arid maketh himself to travail in another 
which he hath not yet, but only because he seeth or heareth 
that other men did so, soothly he may run awhile until he 
be weary, and then shall he turn home again; and unless he 
beware, he may hurt his feet by some fantasies ere he come 
home. But he that worketh in such grace as he hath, and 
desireth by prayer meekly and lastingly after more, and after 
feeleth his heart stirred to follow the grace which he desired, 
he may safely run if he keep meekness. . . . And, therefore, 
it is speedful that we know the gifts that are given us of 
God, that we may work in them, for by these we shall be 
saved; as some by bodily works and deeds of mercy, some 
by great bodily penance, some by sorrow and weeping for 
their sins all their lifetime, some by preaching and teaching, 
some by divers graces and gifts of devotion shall be saved and 
come to bliss." 

These words from Walter Hilton's "The Scale of Perfec^ 
tion" were written by an English monk of the fourteenth cen- 
tury. But the message they convey is beyond any particular 
time :>r place. In one form or another it has been enunciated 
by all the masters of the spiritual life, Western and Oriental, 
present and past. Liberation, salvation, the Beatific Vision, 
unitive knowledge of God the end is always and everywhere 
the same. But the means whereby it is sought to achieve that 
end are as various as the human beings who address them- 
selves to the task. 

Many attempts have been made to classify the varieties of 


95 Religion and T emperatnent 

human temperament. Thus, in the West, we have the four- 
fold classification of Hippocrates in terms of the "humours" 
(phlegmatic, choleric, melancholic and sanguine), a classifica- 
tion which dominated the theory and practice of medicine, 
for more than two thousand years, and whose terminology is 
indelibly imprinted upon every European language. An- 
other popular system of classification, which has also left its 
trace in modern speech, was the seven-fold system of the 
astrologers. We still describe people in planetary terms as 
jovial, mercurial, saturnine, martial. Both these systems had 
their merits, and there was even something to be said for the 
physiognomic classification in terms of supposed resem- 
blances to various animals. All were based to some extent on 

In our own day a number of new essays in classification 
have been attempted those of Stockard, of Kretschmer, of 
Viola, and, more satisfactory and better-documented than all 
the rest, of Dr. William Sheldon, whose two volumes on 
"The Varieties of Human Physique" and "The Varieties of 
Temperament" are among the most important of recent con- 
tributions to the science of Man. 

Sheldon's researches have led him to the conclusion that 
the most satisfactory system of classification is in terms of 
three types of temperament, which he calls the viscerotonic, 
the somatotonic and the cerebrotonic. All human beings are 
of mixed type. But in some the various elements are evenly 
mixed, while in some one element tends to predominate at 
the expense of the other two. In some again the mixture is 
well balanced, whereas in others there is a disequilibrium 
which results in acute internal conflict and extreme difficulty 
in making adaptation to life. No form of hormone treatment 
or other therapy can change the fundamental pattern o tem- 
perament, which is a datum to be accepted and made the ; :?%st 
of. In a word, the psycho-physical pattern is one of the ex- 
pressions of karma. There are good karmas and bad karmas: 
but it is within the choice of the individual to make a bad 
use of the best karma and a good use of the worst. There is 
a measure of free will within a system of predestination. 

A religion cannot survive unless it makes an appeal to all 
sorts and conditions of men. This being so, we must expect 

VEDANTA For <The Western World 96 

to find in all the existing world religions elements of belief, 
of precept, and of practice contributed by each of the prin- 
cipal categories of human beings. Dr. Sheldon's findings con- 
firm these expectations, and provide new instruments for the 
analysis of religious phenomena. Let us now briefly consider 
the three polar types in their relations to the organized reli- 
gions of the world. 

The viscerotonic temperament is associated with what Dr. 
Sheldon has called endomorphic physiquethe type of phy- 
sique in which the gut is the predominant feature, and which 
has a tendency, when external conditions are good, to run to 
breadth, fat and weight. Characteristic of extreme viscero- 
tonia are the following: slow reaction time, love of comfort 
and luxury, love of eating, pleasure in digestion, love of the 
ritual of eating in company (the shared meal is for him a 
natural sacrament), love of polite ceremony, a certain un~ 
tempered quality of flabbiness; indiscriminate amiability; 
easy communication of feeling; tolerance and complacency 
dislike of solitude; need of people when in trouble; orienta- 
tion toward childhood and family relations. 

The somatotonic temperament is associated with mesomor- 
phic physique, in which the predominant feature is the 
musculature. Mesomorphs are physically strong, active and 
athletic. Among the characteristics of extreme somatotonia 
we find the following: assertiveness of posture and move- 
ment; love of physical adventure; need of exercise; love of 
risk; indifference to pain; energy and rapid decision; lust for 
power and domination; courage for combat; competitiveness; 
psychological callousness; claustrophobia; ruthlessness in 
gaining the desired end; extraversion towards activity rather 
than towards people (as with the viscerotonic); need of action 
when troubled; orientation towards the goals and activities 
of youth. 

The cerebrotonic temperament is associated with the ec- 
tomorphic physique, in which the predominance of the nerv- 
ous system results in a high degree of sensitiveness. Extreme 
cerebrotonia has the following characteristics: restraint of 
posture and movement; physiological over-response (one of 
the consequences of which is extreme sexuality); love of 
privacy; a certain overintentness and apprehensiveness; secre- 

97 Religion and ^Temperament 

tiveness of feeling and emotional restraint; dislike of com- 
pany; shyness and inhibited social address; agoraphobia; re- 
sistance to habit formation and incapacity to build up rou- 
tines; awareness of inner mental processes and tendency to 
introversion; need of solitude when troubled; orientation 
towards maturity and old age. 

These are summary descriptions; but they are sufficient to 
indicate the nature of the contributions to religion made by 
each of the three polar types. In his unregenerate state, the 
viscerotonic loves polite ceremony and luxury, and makes a 
fetish of ritual eating in public. It is because of him that 
churches and temples are so splendidly adorned, that rituals 
are so solemn and elaborate, and that sacramentalism, or the 
worship of the divine through material symbols, plays so 
important a part in organized religion. 

The ideal of universal brotherly love represents the ration- 
alization, refinement and sublimation of the viscerotonic's 
native amiability towards all and sundry. Similarly, it is from 
his native sociophilia that the idea of the Church or fellow- 
ship of believers takes its origin. The various cults of divine 
childhood and divine motherhood have their source in his 
nostalgic harking back to his own infancy and earlier rela- 
tions to the family. (It is highly significant in this context to 
note the difference between the ordinary, viscerotonic cult of 
the child Christ and the cerebrotonic version of it produced 
by the French Oratorians of the seventeenth century. In the 
ordinary cult, the infant Christ is conceived of, and repre- 
sented as, a beautiful child about two years old. In the Ora- 
torian cult, the child is much younger, and the worshipper is 
encouraged to think of infancy, not as a time of charm and 
beauty, but as a condition of abjection and helplessness only 
slightly less complete than that of death. Christ is to be 
thanked for having voluntarily taken upon himself the ap- 
palling humiliation of being a baby. Between this point of 
view, and the point of view implicit in one of Raphael's 
Madonnas and Infant Christs, there is fixed an almost un- 
bridgeable temperamental gulf.) 

To the somatotonic, religions owe whatever they have in 
them of hardness and energy. Proselytizing zeal, the courting 
of martyrdom and the readiness to persecute aie somatotonic 

VEDANTA For The Western World 98 

characteristics. So are the extremer forms of asceticism, and 
the whole stoic and puritanic temper. So is the dogmatic in- 
sistence on hell fire and the sterner aspects of God. So is the 
preoccupation with active good works, as opposed to the vis- 
cerotonic's preoccupation with sacraments and ritual and the 
cerebrotonic's with private devotion and meditation. An- 
other significant peculiarity of the somatotonic is mentioned 
by Dr. Sheldon, who points out that it is among persons of 
this type that the phenomenon of sudden conversion is most 
frequently observed. The reason for this must be sought, it 
would seem, in their active extroversion, which causes them 
to be profoundly ignorant of the inner workings of their own 
minds. When religion opens up to their view the interior 
life of the soul, the discovery comes to them, very often, with 
the force of a revelation. They are violently converted, and 
proceed to throw themselves into the business of acting upon 
their new knowledge with all the energy characteristic of 
their type. Religious conversion is no longer common in edu- 
cated circles; but its place has been taken, as Dr. Sheldon 
points out, by psychological conversion. For it is upon un- 
balanced somatotonics that psycho-analysis produces its most 
striking effects, and it is they who are its most fervent believ- 
ers and most energetic missionaries. 

Very different is the case with the cerebrotonic, who habit- 
ually lives in contact with his inner being, and for whom the 
revelations of religion and psychiatry are not startlingly 
novel. For this reason, and because of his emotional restraint, 
he is little subject to violent conversion. For him, change of 
heart and life tends to come gradually. Along with the vis- 
cerotonic, who lacks the energy to get himself violently con- 
verted, the cerebrotonic has a peculiarly wretched time of it 
when he happens to be born into a sect which regards violent 
conversion as a necessary condition of salvation. His tempera- 
ment is such that he simply cannot experience the convulsion 
which comes so easily to his somatotonic neighbors. Because 
of this inability, he is forced either to simulate conversion by 
an act of conscious or unconscious fraud, or else to regard 
himself, and be regarded by others, as irretrievably lost. 

The great cerebrotonic contribution to religion is mysti- 
cism, the worship of God in contemplative solitude without 

99 Religion and Temperament 

the aid of ritual or sacraments. Because he feels no need of 
it, the cerebrotonic is sometimes moved, with the Buddha, 
to denounce ritualistic worship as one of the fetters holding 
back the soul from liberation. 

The unregenerate viscerotonic likes luxury and "nice 
things" around him. When he becomes religious, he gives up 
"nice things" for himself, but wants them in his church or 
temple. Not so the cerebrotonic. To him the life of voluntary 
poverty seems not only tolerable, but often supremely desir- 
able; and he likes to worship in a shrine as austerely naked as 
his cell. When the cerebrotonic love of bareness and poverty 
becomes associated with somatotonic proselytizing zeal, we 
have iconoclasm. 

Among cerebrotonic inventions are hermitages and con- 
templative orders. Most systems of spiritual exercises are de- 
vised by cerebrotonics as an aid to private devotion and a 
preparation for mystical experience. And finally the great 
systems of spiritual philosophy, such as those of Shankara, of 
Plotinus, of Eckhart, are the work of cerebrotonic minds. 

So much, then, for the elements contributed to religion 
by the three polar types of temperament. Two questions now 
present themselves for our consideration. First, which of the 
types has been most influential in the framing of the world's 
great religions? And, second, which of the types is best fitted 
to discover the truth about ultimate Reality? 

The religions of India are predominantly viscerotonic and 
cerebrotonic religions of ritual and mysticism, having little 
proselytizing zeal and intolerance, and setting a higher value 
on the contemplative life than on the active. The same seems 
to be true of the Taoism of China, at any rate in its uncor- 
rupted forms. 

Confucianism would seem to be predominantly viscero- 
tonic a religion of forms and ceremonials, in which the cult 
of the family is centrally important. 

Mohammedanism is decidedly more somatotonic than any 
of the religions native to India and China. In its primitive 
form it is hard, militant and puritanical; it encourages the 
spirit of martyrdom, is eager to make proselytes and has no 
qualms about levying "holy wars'* and conducting persecu- 
tions. Some centuries after the prophet's death it developed 

FED ANT A For The Western World IOO 

the Sufi school of mysticism a school whose strict Islamic 
orthodoxy its theologians have always had some difficulty in 

In Christianity we have a religion of which, until recent 
years, the central core has always been cerebrotonic and 
viscerotonic, contemplative and ritualistic. But, to a much 
greater extent than is the case with Buddhism and Hinduism, 
these cerebrotonic and viscerotonic elements have always 
been associated with others of a strongly somatotonic nature. 
Christianity has been a militant, proselytizing and persecut- 
ing religion. At various periods of its history, stoicism and 
puritanism have flourished within the church, and at certain 
times active "good works" have been esteemed as highly as, 
or even more highly than, contemplation. This is especially 
the case at the present time. For, as Dr. Sheldon has pointed 
out, our age has witnessed a veritable somatotonic revolution. 
The expression of this revolution in the political field is too 
manifest to require comment. In the sphere of personal living 
the revolt against pure contemplation and the sacramental 
reverence for material things may best be studied in the ad- 
vertising pages of our newspapers and magazines. Where reli- 
gion is concerned, the revolt is not so much against the viscero- 
tonic elements of Christianity as against the cerebrotonic or 
contemplative. The two key words of contemporary Western 
religion are respectively viscerotonic and somatotonic, namely 
"fellowship" and "social service." The things which these 
words stand for are good and precious; but their full value 
can be realized only when the contemplation of ultimate 
Reality gives meaning to the emotional warmth of fellowship 
and direction to the activity of service. 

Risking a generalization, we may say that the main social 
function of the great religions has been to keep the congeni- 
tally energetic and often violent somatotonics from destroying 
themselves, their neighbors and society at large. Highly sig- 
nificant in 'this context is the Bhagavad Gita, which is ad- 
dressed to a princely kshatriya, a hereditary and professional 
somatotonic. Its teaching of non-attached action was supple- 
mented, in India, by the theory and practice of caste, with 
its all-important doctrine of the supremacy of spiritual au- 

I O I Religion and temperament 

thority over temporal power. Orthodox Christianity holds 
the same doctrine in regard to the supremacy of spiritual 
authority. During the last four hundred years, however, this 
doctrine has been assailed, not only in practice by ambitious 
rulers, but also in theory, by philosophers and sociologists. As 
far back as the sixteenth century, Henry VIII made himself, 
in Bishop Stubb's words, "the Pope, the whole Pope and 
something more than the Pope." Since that time his example 
has been followed in every part of Christendom, until now 
there is no organized temporal power which acknowledges 
even theoretically the supremacy of any kind of spiritual 
authority. The triumph of unrestrained somatotonia is now 

We now come to our second question: Which of the three 
polar types is best fitted to discover the truth about ultimate 
Reality? The question is one which can be referred only to 
the judgment of the experts in this case, the great theocen- 
tric saints of the higher religions. The testimony of these men 
and women is unmistakable. It is in pure contemplation that 
human beings come nearest, in the present Hfe, to the beatific 
vision of God. But the desire and the aptitude for contempla- 
tion are cerebrotonic characteristics. (But of course those who 
belong predominantly to the other polar types can always 
arrive at contemplation, if they fulfil the necessary conditions 
for receiving the grace of unitive knowledge. It may, how- 
ever, be doubted whether persons of viscerotonic and soma- 
totonic temperament would ever think of embarking upon 
the road which leads to contemplation, if the way had not 
first been explored by cerebrotonics whose soul is, in some 
sort, naturaliter contemplativa.) 

To what extent is the viscerotonic justified in his claim that 
ritual, group worship and sacramentalism enable him to es- 
tablish contact with ultimate Reality? This is a very difficult 
question to answer. That such procedures permit those who 
practice them to get in touch with something greater than 
themselves seems to admit of no doubt. But what the nature 
of that something may bewhether some mediated aspect of 
spiritual Reality, or possibly some kind of psychically objec- 
tive crystallization of the devotional feeling experienced by 

VEDANTA For The Western World 102 

the long succession of worshippers who have used the same 
ceremonial in the past I will not venture even to try to de- 

One practical conclusion remains to be recorded. Analysis 
seems to show that religion is a system of relativities within 
an absolute frame of reference. The end which religion pro- 
poses is knowledge of the unalterable fact of God. Its means 
are relative to the heredity and social upbringing of those 
who seek that end. This being so, it seems extremely unwise 
to promote any one of these purely relative means to the rank 
of a dogmatic absolute. For example, an organized fellow- 
ship for the furtherance of spiritual ends and the preserva- 
tion of traditional knowledge is, obviously and as a matter of 
empirical experience, a most valuable thing. But we have no 
right to proceed to a quasi-deification of Church and a dogma 
of infallibility. Mutatis mutandis, the same thing may be 
said of rituals, sacraments, sudden conversions. All these are 
means to the ultimate end means which for some people are 
enormously valuable, for others, of different temperament, of 
little or no value. For this reason they should not be treated 
as though they were absolutes. That way lies idolatry. 

The case of ethical precepts is different. Experience shows 
that such states of mind as pride, anger, covetousness and lust 
are totally incompatible with the knowledge of ultimate real- 
ity; and this incompatibility exists for persons of every variety 
of temperament and upbringing. Consequently these pre- 
cepts may properly be inculcated in an absolute form. "If you 
want God, it is absolutely essential for you not to want to 
be Napoleon, or Jay Gould, or Casanova." 

and Time 


RELIGION is as various as humanity. Its reactions to life are 
sometimes intelligent and creative, sometimes stupid, stulti- 
fying and destructive. Through its doctrines it presents some- 
times an adequate picture of the nature and quality of ulti- 
mate ReaJity, sometimes a picture coloured by the lowest 
of human cravings, and therefore wholly untrue. Its conse- 
quences are sometimes very good, sometimes monstrously 
and diabolically evil. 

In considering a group of organized religions, or the reli- 
gious beliefs and practices of a group of individuals, how can 
we distinguish between the truer and the less true, the better 
and the less good? One of the answers given by all the great 
religious teachers is that "by their fruits ye shall know them." 
But, unfortunately, fruits often take a long time to observe; 
the full consequences of adherence to a given religion will 
not be manifested in all circumstances, and the would-be 
critic must often wait, before passing judgment, until ex- 
ternal events provide the opportunity for making a crucial 
observation. Nor is this all. The fruits of certain less good 
practices and less true beliefs do not take the form of positive 
wrong-doings or obviously recognizable disasters. They are 
of a subtler, more negative kind not sins, but failures to 
achieve the highest development of which the individual or 
group is capable; not catastrophes, but the non-attainment of 
the fruits of the spirit, love, joy and peace. But such failures 
and non-attainments can be measured only by observers of 
more than ordinary insight, or by those who are so placed 
that they can look back over a long span of the career of 
the individuals or groups under consideration. 

It is clear, then, that, besides the criterion of fruits, we 
need another more readily applicable a criterion by which 


VEDANTA For The Western World 104 

to judge the roots and flowers from which the fruits spring. 
Thanks to the insight of specially gifted individuals and to 
the collective experience of generations of worshippers, such 
criterions for evaluating the doctrines and practices of reli- 
gion have been discovered and only require to be intel- 
ligently applied. 

The most elementary criterion is that which has reference 
to the unity or plurality of the object of worship. It has been 
found that the doctrines and practices of monotheism are, 
generally speaking, truer and better than those of polytheism, 
and lead to more satisfactory results, both for individuals and 
for societies. But the distinction between monotheism and 
polytheism is not enough. Two men may both be monothe- 
ists; but the nature of the God believed in by the first may 
be profoundly different from that of the God believed in by 
the second, and their religious practices may be as diverse as 
their theoretical conceptions. But the one God and this is 
affirmed by all those who have fulfilled the conditions which 
alone make possible a clear insight into the nature and qual- 
ity of Realityis a God of love. In the light of these insights 
we may refine our criterion and assert that those beliefs will 
be truer, and those practices better, which have as their ob- 
ject a single God of love. But even a God of love can be 
conceived of, and therefore worshipped, in a variety of ways, 
and with diverse consequences for individuals and societies. 
To become fully adequate, our criterion requires to be 
further refined. Once again, the new qualification of the ele- 
mentary criterion is provided by those theocentric mystics 
who alone have fulfilled the conditions upon which insight 
depends. The truer forms of religion are those in which God 
is conceived, not only as one and loving, but also as eternal 
(that is to say, outside time); and the better forms of religious 
practice are those which aim at creating in the mind a condi- 
tion approximating to timelessness. (Reality cannot make 
itself known except to those who have fulfilled the necessary 
conditions of "mcrtification," and have rendered themselves 
commensurable with God by becoming, as far as they can, 
unified, loving and, in some measure, timeless.) Conversely, 
the less true forms of religious belief are those which em- 
phasize God's everlastingness rather than his eternal presence 

105 Religion and Time 

in a non-temporal Now; and the less-good religious practices 
are those which stress the importance of petitionary prayer 
addressed to a temporal God for the sake of personal or social 
advantages in temporal affairs, and which, in general, substi- 
tute a preoccupation with future time for the mystic's con- 
cern with the timeless presence of eternal Reality. 

In theory all the higher religions have insisted that the 
final end of man, the purpose of his existence upon earth, is 
the realization, partially in the present life, more completely 
in some other state, of timeless Reality. In practice, however, 
a majority of the adherents of these religions have always 
behaved as if man's primary concern were not with eternity, 
but with time. At any given moment several quite different 
religions go by the name of Christianity, say. or Buddhism, 
or Taoismreligions ranging all the way from the purest 
mysticism to the grossest fetishism, 

In all the higher religions the doctrines about eternal 
Reality, and the practices designed to help worshippers to 
render themselves sufficiently timeless to apprehend an eter- 
nal God, bear a close family resemblance. Eckhart, as Pro- 
fessor Otto has shown in his "Mysticism East and West/' 
formulates a philosophy which is substantially the same as 
that of Sankara; and the practical teaching of Indian and 
Christian mystics is identical in such matters as "holy indif- 
ference" to temporal affairs; mortification of memory for the 
past and anxiety about the future; renunciation of petition- 
ary prayer in favour of simple abandonment to the will of 
God; purification not only of the will, but also of the imag- 
ination and intellect, so that the consciousness of the wor- 
shipper may partake in some measure of the intense undif- 
ferentiated timelessness of that which he desires to apprehend 
and be united with. For the theocentric mystics both of 
East and West, it is axiomatic that one must "seek first the 
kingdom of God" (the timeless kingdom of an eternal God) 
"and his righteousness" (the righteousness of eternity over 
and above the righteousness of life in time); and that, only if 
one does this, is there any prospect of "all the rest being 

In the less true forms of the genuine religions and, still 
more, in the humanistic pseudo-religions of Nationalism, 

VEDANTA For The Western World 106 

Fascism, Communism and the like, the position is completely 
reversed. For here the fundamental commandment and its 
accompanying promise are, "Seek ye first all the rest, and 
the kingdom of God and his righteousness shall be added to 

Among the religious, the seeking first of temporal values is 
always associated with the idea of a God who, being in time 
rather than eternity, is not spiritual but "psychical." Believ- 
ers in a temporal God make use of passionately willed and 
intensely felt petitionary prayer for concrete benefits, such as 
health and prosperity before death and, afterwards, a place 
in some everlasting heaven. These petitionary prayers are 
accompanied by rituals and sacraments which, by stimulating 
imagination and intensifying emotions, help to create that 
psychic "field," within which petitionary prayer takes on the 
power to get itself answered. The fact that "spiritual heal- 
ing" (more accurately, "psychic healing") often works, and 
that prayers for one's own or other people's health, wealth 
and happiness often get answered/ is constantly put forward 
by the devotees of temporal religion as a proof that they are 
being directly helped by God. One might just as well argue 
that one is being directly helped by God because one's re- 
frigerator works, or because somebody answers when one 
dials a number on the telephone. All one has a right to say 
of such things as "spiritual healing" and answers to prayer 
is that they are happenings permitted by God in exactly the 
same way as other natural psycho-physical phenomena are 
permitted. That the mind has extensive powers over and 
above those which are ordinarily used in everyday life has 
been known from time immemorial; and at all periods and 
in all countries these powers have been exploited, for good 
and for evil, by mediums, healers, prophets, medicine men, 
magicians, hatha yogins and the other queer fish who exist 
and have always existed on the fringes of every society. Dur- 
ing the last two or three generations some efforts have been 
made to investigate these powers and the conditions under 
which they are manifested. The phenomena of hypnotism 
and suggestion have been carefully explored. Under the 
auspices of the Society of Psychical Research a thoroughly 
respectable and critical literature of the abnormal has coir 

107 Religion and Time 

into existence. Research into Extra-Sensory Perception is car- 
ried on in a number of university laboratories; and now, in 
at least one of those laboratories, there is piling up significant 
evidence for the existence of "Pk," or the ability of persons 
to interfere with the movements of material objects by means 
of a purely mental act. If people working under the most un- 
inspiring laboratory conditions can perceive clairvoyantly, 
exercise foreknowledge and affect the fall of dice by purely 
mental acts, then clearly we have no right whatever to in- 
voke a direct intervention of God in the case of similar phe- 
nomena, just because they happen to take place in a church 
or to the accompaniment of religious rites. 

In this context, it is highly significant that the great theo- 
centric mystics have always drawn a sharp distinction be-* 
tween the "psychic** and the "spiritual." In their view, phe- 
nomena of the first class have their existence in an unfamiliar, 
but in no way intrinsically superior, extension of the space- 
time world. Spiritual phenomena, on the other hand, be- 
long to the timeless and eternal order, within which the 
temporal order has its less real existence. The mystics' atti- 
tude to "miracles" is one of intellectual acceptance, and emo- 
tional and volitional detachment. Miracles happen, but they 
are of very little importance. Moreover, the temptation to 
perform "miracles" should always be resisted. For mystics, 
this temptation is particularly strong; for those who try to 
make themselves timelessly conscious of eternal Reality fre- 
quently develop unusual psychic powers in the process. 
When this happens, it is essential to refrain from using such 
powers; for the user thereby places an impediment between 
himself and the Reality with which he hopes to be united. 
This advice is given as clearly by the masters of Western 
spirituality as by the Buddhists and Vedantists. But, unfor- 
tunately for Christianity, the teaching of the gospels upon 
this subject is somewhat confused. Jesus denounces those who 
ask for "signs," but Himself performs many miracles of heal- 
ing and the like. The explanation of this apparent incon- 
sistency can probably be found in the passage, in which He 
asks His critics which is easier, to tell the sick man to rise and 
walk, or to tell him that his sins are forgiven him. The im- 
plication seems to be that physical "signs" are legitimate, if 

V ED ANT A For The Western World 108 

the person who performs them is so completely united with 
eternal Reality that he is able, by the very quality of his 
being, to modify the inner being of those, for whose sake 
the "signs" are performed. But this enormously important 
qualification has been generally neglected, and the adherents 
of the less true forms of the Christian religion attach enor- 
mous importance to such purely "psychic" phenomena as 
healing and the answer to petitionary prayer. By doing this 
they positively guarantee themselves against attaining that 
degree of union with timeless Reality which alone might 
render the performance of a "miracle" innocuous to the doer 
and permanently beneficial to the person on whom, or for 
whom, it is done. 

Another form frequently taken by temporal religion is 
apocalypticism belief in an extraordinary cosmic event to 
take place in the not-too-distant future, together with the 
practices deemed appropriate to this state of things. Here 
again intense preoccupation with future time positively 
guarantees the apocalypticist against the possibility of a time- 
less realization of eternal Reality. 

In certain respects all the humanistic pseudo-religions, at 
present so popular, bear a close resemblance to the apocalyp- 
tic perversions of true religion. For in these also an intense 
preoccupation with hypothetical events in future time takes 
the place of the genuinely religious concern with Reality 
now, in the eternal present. But whereas believers in the ap- 
proaching end of the world seldom find it necessary to coerce 
or slaughter those who do not agree with them, coercion and 
slaughter have formed an essential part of the programme 
put forward by the crusaders for the humanistic pseudo- 
religions. For the revolutionary, whether of the right or the 
left, the supremely important fact is the golden age of peace, 
prosperity and brotherly love which, his faith assures him, is 
bound to dawn as soon as his particular brand of revolution 
has been carried through. Nothing stands between the peo- 
ple's miserable present and its glorious future, except a 
minority, perhaps a majority, of perverse or merely ignorant 
individuals. All that is necessary is to liquidate a few thou- 
sands, or it may be a few millions, of these living obstacles to 
progress, and then to coerce and propagandize the rest into 

109 Religion and Time 

acquiescence. When these unpleasant but necessary prelim- 
inaries are over, the golden age will begin. Such is the theory 
of that secular apocalypticism which is the religion of revo- 
lutionaries. But in practice, it is hardly necessary to say, the 
means employed positively guarantee that the end actually 
reached shall be profoundly different from that which the 
prophetic theorists envisaged. 

Happiness is not achieved by the conscious pursuit of hap- 
piness; it is generally the by-product of other activities. This 
"hedonistic paradox" may be generalized to cover our whole 
life in time. Temporal conditions will be accepted as satis- 
factory only by those whose first concern is not with time, 
but with eternal Reality and with that state of virtually time- 
less consciousness, in which alone the awareness of Reality 
is possible. Furthermore, in any given society, temporal con* 
ditions will be generally felt to be tolerable, and will in fact 
be as free from the grosser evils as human conditions ever 
can be, only when the current philosophy of life lays more 
stress upon eternity than upon time, and only wjien a minor- 
ity of individuals within the society are making a serious 
attempt to live out this philosophy in practice. It is highly 
significant, as Sorokin has pointed out, that a man born into 
the eternity-conscious thirteenth century had a much better 
prospect of dying in his bed than a man of our own time 
the obsessed and therefore nationalistic, revolutionary and vio- 
lent twentieth century. Si monumentum requiris, circum- 
spice. So runs the epitaph carved on Wren's tomb in St. 
Paul's cathedral. Similarly, it you require a monument to 
modern man's preoccupation with future time to the exclu- 
sion of present eternity, look round at the world's battle- 
fields and back over the history covered by the life-time of a 
man of seventy the history of that late-Victorian "Genera- 
tion of Materialism/' so ably sketched in a recent volume by 
Professor Carlton Hayes, and the history of the generation 
which inevitably succeeded it, that of the wars and revolu- 
tions. Reality cannot be ignored except at a price; and the 
longer the ignorance is persisted in, the higher and the more 
terrible becomes the price that must be paid. 

The Trobkm of Svil 


THE PROBLEM OF EVIL is a central one in every system of 
philosophy or religion, a problem that is usually explained 
away instead of itself being explained; and the difficulty of 
reconciling the conception of a God who is all good with the 
existence of evil remains. Monists of the West, in order to be 
consistent with their philosophy of absolutism, tend to deny 
the reality of evil; for, they declare, what we call evil is evil 
only because we do not view our lives sub specie aeternitatis. 
What appears to be evil is in reality good when viewed in this 

And yet we must ask, can evil really be changed into good 
merely by viewing it in a special manner? Can pain be 
labelled pleasure provided we view it absolutely? It is true 
that pain may be borne gracefully if we fix our gaze upon 
the ultimate goodness of God, but pain is a positive experi- 
ence of suffering, at least during the duration of the expe- 
rience. How then can a philosophy be at one with itself 
simply by denying evil or even more simply by affirming that 
it can be transformed into good when it is viewed "under the 
aspect of eternity"? The question remains unanswered in 
Western attempts to dodge this gravest of all ethical prob- 

Vedanta meets the issue in a different way. In the first 
place, it asserts that, when viewed from the point of view of 
the Absolute, there is neither good nor evil, neither pleasure 
nor pain. Then evil no longer exists, not because the magical 
power of the Absolute changes evil into good, but because 
both good and evil have ceased to exist. So long, however, as 
we are experiencing pleasure and pain, so long do both good 
and evil exist as empirically real. The experience of evil is 
indeed as much a positive fact as the experience of good. 

1 1 1 The ^Problem ofSvil 

Vedanta thus recognizes both good and evil, and pleasure and 
pain, as positive facts of experience in our empirical lives, 
they being in effect the play of Maya, neither real nor unreal. 
They cannot be said to be real, for we no longer experience 
them when we touch absolute experience; and they cannot be 
said to be actually unreal, for they are experienced in our 
empirical lives. 

Thus, if we accept finite experiences as but the play of 
Maya, the perfection of the Absolute is in no way tarnished. 
The experiences of pleasure and of pain within Maya are in 
fact due to the good and evil deeds of an individual's past; 
they are the direct result of karma operating in an individ- 
ual's life. Shankara compares God to the giver of rain. As 
rain falls to the ground, various plants ripen and grow and 
differ from one another, not because the rain is partial but 
because the seeds are different, Iswara (God) in like manner 
is the dispenser of the Law, and individuals experience pleas- 
ure and pain according to the seeds of merit and demerit 
they have sown in themselves from a beginningless past. 

So, again, the all-goodness of God is not contradicted by 
our own individual experiences of suffering and evil. Good 
and evil, that is to say, as they exist as Maya, are relative in 
the sense that the one without the other is meaningless. Shan- 
kara, therefore, distinguishes Maya as* being of two kinds 
avidya (evil) and vidya (good). Avidya is that which causes us 
to move away from the real Self, or Brahman, drawing a veil 
before our sight of Truth; vidya is that which enables us to 
move towards Brahman by removing the veil of ignorance. 
As we receive illumination and come to know the Self, we 
transcend both vidya and avidya and cease to submit to the 
dominion of Maya. 

<*s>& t s*e>^e>^s>*&&^ff^^ 

The ^Magical and the Spiritual 


CREATION, EVIL, TIME three mysteries, about which it is only 
possible, in the last analysis, to say that they are somehow 
interconnected, and that their relationship to the greater 
mystery of divine Reality is one of limitation. Creation and 
time are the results of some cosmic process of limiting the 
eternal spiritual substance, while evil is the name we give to 
a secondary process of limitation carried out by creatures 
within the order of creation a limiting of individual crea- 
tureliness to its own self, to the exclusion of other creatures 
and to that which lies beyond all creatures. 

Reality is present in all creatures; but all creatures are 
not equally aware of the fact. Those in which mind is rudi- 
mentary or only imperfectly developed can probably never 
become^aware of Reality, except perhaps in its physiological 
aspect as normal and natural functioning, as the proper and 
perfect relationship between the parts of the organism, and 
between the organism as a whole and its environment. With 
man, however, the case is different. Thanks to their mental 
development, human beings can become aware of the pres- 
ence of Reality within them, not only on the physiological 
level, but also by a direct spiritual apprehension. Though 
born into time and illusion, man has a capacity for Reality 
and Eternity. Whether he makes use of this capacity, or 
whether, on the contrary, he limits himself to the God- 
eclipsing activities of ordinary unregenerate life, depends 
upon his own choice. 

In order to actualize their innate capacity for Reality and 
Eternity, human beings must undertake a course of detach- 
mentdetachment, first of all, from that limitation to self 
and to the creatureliness of creatures which constitute evil, 
and detachment, in the second place, from the cosmic limita- 

H3 The ^Magical and the Spiritual 

tions imposed upon creatures by the act of creation, namely 
separateness, individuality and time. The first kind of de- 
tachment is achieved by self-mortification, and practice of 
virtue, and the cultivation and exercise of love and compas- 
sion for one's fellow beings. The second kind of detachment 
is achieved through the practices of mystical contemplation. 
Or rather it would be more accurate to say that the practices 
of mystical contemplation are the means whereby we can 
prepare ourselves for receiving the grace of a direct intuition 
of Reality and Eternity. Experience has shown that this sec- 
ond detachment cannot be achieved except by those who are 
at least in process of achieving the first that the mystical life, 
in other words, is closely associated with the ascetical. 

Between Reality and Eternity on the one hand and, on 
the other, the limited and imperfectly real world of creatures 
and time there exists a kind of no-man's land the world of 
what, for lack of a better name, has been called the world of 
psychic phenomena. This psychic domain is an extension of 
the world of creatures a continuation of it, so to speak, into 
the ordinarily invisible infra-red or ultra-violet. Certain acci- 
dents of heredity permit of easy access to the psychic world; 
and there are a number of psycho-physical procedures which 
permit even those whose mediumistic or oracular gift is con- 
genitally small to develop an ability to enter it and exploit 
its peculiar forces. Mystics, also, on their way towards Reality 
and Eternity, frequently find themselves in the region of 
psychic happenings. To these the masters of the spiritual life 
always give the same advice: pay no attention to these phe- 
nomena, however pleasant, interesting or extraordinary, but 
press forwards in the direction of that which lies beyond 

In the main, religion has always been concerned with the 
psychic world, and* not directly with Reality and Eternity. 
The reason for this is simple. The search for Reality and 
Eternity imposes a discipline which the great majority of 
men and women are not prepared to undergo. At the same 
time it brings very few obvious rewards or concrete advan- 
tages to the searcher. Access to the psychic world can be at- 
tained without any painful "dying to self," and the exploita- 
tion of the forces existing in the infra-red and ultra-violet of 

V ED ANT A For The Western World 1 14 

our mental life frequently "gets results" of the most spectacu- 
lar nature healings, prophetic insights, fulfilment of wishes 
and a whole host of those miraculous "signs," for desiring 
which Jesus so roundly denounced the religious people of 
his time* 

Psychic forces exist within an extension of the temporal 
universe of creatures, and their exploitation is permitted by 
God in exactly the same way as is the exploitation of such 
more familiar natural forces as electricity or heat, as clever- 
ness or a strong will. Whether they are used to the glory of 
God and in accordance with God's will depends upon the 
choice of the individual at the moment of utilization. The 
only generalization that can justifiably be made is this: it is 
extremely dangerous to be able to exercise power or to get 
one's wishes fulfilled. By the successful exploitation of psychic 
forces one may do both these dangerous things. That is one 
of the reasons why religions have been a cause of evil as well 
as of good. 

Contemplative prayer and mortification, not only of the 
passions but also of the intellect and, above all, the imagina- 
tionthese are the means whereby men and women can fit 
themselves to receive the grace of a direct apprehension of 
Reality and Eternity. Very different is the procedure when 
our aim is the exploitation of the forces of the psychic world. 
Instead of mortifying the passions, the higher as well as the 
lower, we canalize them in the urgency of petitionary prayer; 
instead of doing all we can to die to our imagination, we 
deliberately intensify it by means of rituals, sacraments, 
images, music. 

The exploitation of psychic forces need not of necessity be 
harmful or God-eclipsing. "White magic" and the liturgical 
and sacramental devices employed in order to make it work 
are compatible, as the history of many of the saints makes 
clear, with a high degree of holiness, a genuine apprehension 
of Reality and Eternity. The mass of ordinary worshippers, 
unsaintly indeed tut reasonably respectable, may get certain 
insights into Reality through the psychic phenomena of non- 
spiritual religion and through the emotionally satisfying 
rituals and sacraments devised for the production of those 
phenomena. (In the same way, they may get certain insights 

1 1 5 The ^Magical and the Spiritual 

into Reality through art and the beauty of nature.) More- 
over, most of the highly developed religions possess a genu- 
inely spiritual as well as a non-spiritual, psychic or magical 
side. Consequently it is always possible for its adherents to 
pass, if they so desire, from the orthodoxy of ritual and 
petitionary prayer to the other orthodoxy of contemplation, 
from the white magic of psychical phenomena to a detach- 
ment from all that is creaturely, including the psychic, and 
the single-minded search for Reality and Eternity. And even 
for those who do not take the spiritual path, it is probably 
true that adherence to a predominantly psychic religion of 
white magic is better, on the whole, than adherence to no 
religion at all, or to some idolatrous pseudo-religion, such as 
nationalism, communism or fascism. Meanwhile, it is vitally 
important that we should think clearly on this subject. At 
present there is a lamentable tendency to confound the psy- 
chic with the spiritual, to regard every supernormal phe- 
nomenon, every unusual mental state as coming from God. 
But there is nq reason whatever to suppose that healings, 
prophecies and other "miracles" are necessarily of divine 
origin. Orthodox Christianity has adopted the absurd posi- 
tion that all supernormal phenomena produced by non- 
Christians are of diabolic origin, while most of those associ- 
ated with non-heretical Christians are gifts of God. It would 
be more reasonable to regard all such "signs" as due to the 
conscious or unconscious exploitation of forces within the, 
to us, strange but still essentially creaturely psychic world. 
Examination of each particular case would be needed in 
order to determine whether the psychic phenomena in ques- 
tion were being manifested in accord with the will of God or 
for merely human purposes; for men can make use of psychic 
forces in good ways and in bad ways, just as they can do in 
the case of the more familiar forces of the material world. 
As things are, there is a tendency in the West to identify the 
merely unusual and supernormal with the divine. The na- 
ture of spirituality will never be generally understood until 
this mental confusion has been dispelled. 


How to Integrate Our ^Personality 


THE SECRET OF STRENGTHENING the personality lies in its 
proper integration. I wish to tell you how this integration is 
brought about in spiritual life. 


First of all let us try to have, if possible, a clearer concep- 
tion of what is meant by "personality." When the psychol- 
ogist declares that "a man's personality is a collection of capaci- 
ties, habits, and attitudes which distinguish him from other 
men," the question naturally arises who is it that thinks, 
feels, wills and acts? What is the constant factor that persists 
and enables a man to consider himself to be the same person 
in the midst of changes changes in the body, mind, ego, and 
environment? Philosophy and religion cannot stop with the 
psychological view. They want to go deeper. 

In man in ourselves we find that the ego, the mind, the 
senses and body all combine to form a "complex." Now, what 
is the most important factor in man? It is his consciousness. 
First, "I am" and then I think, I feel, I will, I perceive, I act. 
We experience our consciousness directly and that of others 
indirectly. Whatever it is, all our individual consciousnesses 
seem to be made of the same stuff, although this stuff natu- 
rally gets associated or identified with other things which 
vary from person to person. 


Did you ever consider that the laws of thought ordain that 
it is not possible for us to have an idea of individual con- 
sciousness without having, at least, an indefinite idea of in- 


1 1 7 How to Integrate Our 'Personality 

finite consciousness? What to us is a logical necessity, we 
found well established in the great disciples of Sri Rama- 
krishna. In them the individual consciousness was a part, an 
expression of the universal consciousness. It is this that made 
them cosmo-centric instead of ego-centric. And they made us 
feel that the cosmic consciousness including all forms of 
individual consciousness was a unity in diversity. 

To hold that consciousness is the essence of personality 
does not imply any denial of the mind, the senses and the 
body, which are the instruments of knowledge and action. 

Oui mind is one amongst many similar minds; our body is 
one amongst many bodies; so here, too, comes the question 
of the individual and universal of ihe microcosm and macro- 
cosm on the planes of mind and matter. Hindu teachers speak 
of thr< j kinds of Akasha, space or plane. M ahakasha the ele- 
mental or physical plane; chittakasha the mental plane; 
chidakasha the plane of knowledge or the spiritual plane. 
The individual body is a part of the cosmic body or the 
ocean of matter. The individual mind is a part of the cosmic 
ocean of mind, the individual ego or consciousness is a part 
of the cosmic consciousness. The macrocosm is like the ocean; 
and the microcosm is like the wave. Now, of the two, the 
ocean and the wave, which is more real? The ocean is cer- 
tainly more real than the wave. The wave, too, has its reality 
but it is a dependent reality a reality dependent on that 
of the ocean. This is also true of our "personality" our in- 
dividual consciousness, our individual mind, and our individ- 
ual body which form part of a universal consciousness, a uni- 
versal mind and a universal body, 

Here we come to the ancient conception of the Cosmic 
Being out of which all beings and things have come into 
existence and in which they all live and move. The Vedas 
say, "The Cosmic Being has innumerable heads, innumer- 
able eyes and innumerable feet. It is He that has encom- 
passed the whole universe and it is He again who transcends 
it. ... That Being is this whole cosmos, all that is, all that 
was, and all that will be. He manifests Himself in the form 
of all. . He also is the Lord and Giver of Immortality. The 
manifested universe forms but a small portion of His Being, 
in the main He remains unmanifest and immortal." 

VEDANTA For The Western World 1 18 

Am I losing myself too much in mysticism or metaphysics? 
I do not think so. In order to understand the individual we 
must know something of the universal. Do you know the 
ancient story of Socrates and the Brahmin sage? A Brahmin 
sage from India went to Greece and met Socrates who told 
him, "The greatest study of mankind is man/' But the Brah- 
min asked, "How can you know man until you have known 
Godthe All-Pervading Being?" We can get a correct -idea 
of the individual being only in the background of the uni- 
versal. We can understand personality only in the back- 
ground of the cosmic Personality. 


Now let us consider what we mean by integration. An in- 
teger is a complete unity a whole, not a fractional or mixed 
number. To integrate is to form into a whole; to unite or 
become united so as to form a complete or perfect whole. 

There are various kinds of integration. According to 
modern physical science a mass is composed of molecules; 
molecules of atoms, atoms of electrons and protons. Modern 
physicists tell us that atoms are composed of protons or posi- 
tive units of electricity and of an equal number of electrons 
or negative units. The protons are concentrated in the 
nucleus which also contains a portion of the electrons. The 
remaining electrons are extra-nuclear or planetary and sur- 
round the nucleus. 

Do you realize that this means that each atom is like a solar 
system all the components uniting to form a whole? These 
in their turn form part of a greater whole. Similarly every 
cell in our body is like a tiny solar system and an organization 
by itself. All such units form parts of a greater unit we call 
a member; all the members in their turn form part of a 
greater unit we call the body. In an integrated body, while 
all the members have their individual movements, they all 
must coordinate with the general movement. When this is 
not the case, disharmony or illness is the result, so it is neces- 
sary for us to see that our body is properly integrated or 
harmonized. All our members should be healthy and strong 
and must work in harmony. 

up How to Integrate Our 'Personality 

Let me now come to our mind. Our mind is a synthetic 
whole consisting of the faculties of cognition, feeling and 
willing. How often our reason and feeling, willing and action 
are at war with one another and create terrible confusion 
within ourselves. There may be conflict of duties, conflict of 
moral standards, conflict of spiritual ideals. We may become 
a whirlpool of emotions. So here, too, lies the need of inte- 
gration which stands for purity and strength and harmony. 

Let me now consider our ego. We all know that the ego is 
perverse; how it is constantly changing its center of gravity. 
It is now identified with outside things, next moment with 
the body, then with the senses or the mind. It is mad and is 
running the risk of tumbling down every moment. How at 
times it becomes much too one-pointed, centered on itself! 
We forget that our individual consciousness is part of an in- 
finite consciousness, we forget that the welfare of our fellow 
beings is inseparable from ours, we become egocentric, selfish 
and mean a danger to ourselves, to our family and society. 
So here too we need another kind of integration. 

So integration has its physical aspect, its mental aspect, and 
also its spiritual aspect. In a properly integrated personality 
the ego or individual consciousness is in tune with the uni- 
versal consciousness; and the integrated individual conscious- 
ness directs and guides the mind and the body in a harmo- 
nious, intelligent, and spontaneous way. This is what we 
understand by proper integration. 


I am too ambitious, some of you may think. It is good to 
have a high ideal instead of a low one. But having the high 
ideal in view we must follow the path step by step with in- 
finite patience and perseverance. In order to start on our 
journey we must find out where we stand. This is what we 
do when we wish to climb the mountains. This is also what 
we should do when we want to achieve a high ideal in our 
own lives. We must be realistic find out the real condition 
of our body, mind, and ego. One of the greatest lessons I 
learned sitting at the feet of my Master and other disciples of 

FED ANT A For The Western World 120 

Sri Ramakrishna was the ideal of an harmonious growth- 
growth physical, intellectual, moral, and spiritual. 

The body our physical instrument must be kept fit and 
efficient. It is necessary for us to have a new attitude towards 
the body. It is neither an instrument of sense gratification, 
nor a mass of filth to be hated and neglected. The body is 
primarily a temple of the Divine Spirit and must be kept 
clean and strong. A Sanskrit passage says "The body is like 
a raft with the help of which we cross the ocean of phe- 
nomenal existence, with the help of which we attain spiritual 
illumination and immortality." The body must be nourished 
with pure food which brings energy, strength, health, and 
cheerfulness. Along with proper food we must take fresh air 
and exercise, avoiding drugs, stimulants, and intoxicants. 


In our present state of consciousness our body and mind 
are very much interconnected and affect each other and so 
we should take care of both. Remember the story of Buddha. 
He became tired of the pleasures of the palace, left his home 
and practised a terrible asceticism. One day as he was about 
to stand he fell down unconscious. On reviving, he heard a 
charming song: 

"The string o'er stretched breaks, and the music flies, 
The string o'er slack is dumb and music dies, 
Tune us the Sitar neither low nor high." 

Self-indulgence and self-mortification both are to be 
avoided. Buddha discovered the middle path of right com- 
prehension, right living, and right meditation. Centuries be- 
fore Buddha, Sri Krishna had preached the same message. 
"To him who is temperate in eating and recreation, in his 
work, in sleep and wakefulness, Yoga spiritual practice- 
becomes the destroyer of misery." In still earlier times, the 
ancient sages sang* "May all the members of my body, the 
organ of speech, breath, eye, ear and all senses be strong and 
peaceful." The food that we eat with our mouths must be 
pure; so also the food that we take through the other senses 
must be pure. There must also be moral culture. 

1 2 1 How to Integrate Our Personality 


Moral disciplines have come to be too much connected 
with repression and suppression, to use modern psychological 
terms. The ancient Hindu sages believed in giving a higher 
direction to the senses, "May we hear with our ears what is 
pure. May we see with our eyes what is holy. May we praise 
and worship the Divine Spirit and enjoy with strong and 
steady limbs and body the life allotted to us/' 

One really feels harmonized and integrated when one is 
master of one's own senses, master of one's own mind, when 
one follows the spiritual life without conflicts and in a spon- 
taneous way. The process of mental purification is called 
"purgation" in mystic language an^ "sublimation" in psy- 
chological terms. It is a process of giving a higher turn to the 
desires or 4 'primary instincts." 


Modern psychology has discovered a technique which was 
known to the ancient spiritual teachers of India in a more 
thoroughgoing way. In modern analytic technique the main 
task is to bring into consciousness or awareness the under- 
lying and deep-seated causes of the patient's mental troubles. 
Some unscrupulous psychologists may advocate a free play of 
the morbid tendencies in the patient but as Dr. Fosdick 
quotes in his admirable book "On Being a Real Person" an 
eminent psychiatrist holds, "From the point of view of cure 
the advice to go and 'express your instinct* is foolish. In 
actual experience I have never known a true neurosis cured 
by sexual libertinism." 

In the psychological method as discovered by Freud this 
is true of all psychologists the patient is asked either (i) to 
regard the disturbing desire in a new light, accept it wholly 
or in part without fear or disgust, or (2) to face the trouble 
deliberately and reject it without feeling too much sense of 
guilt, or (3) to direct it along a higher channel to a higher 

Adler always advocates the pursuit of what he calls 
a healthier style of life, useful to the community. The 

VEDANTA For The Western World 122 

Hindu spiritual teacher also wants us to give a higher turn 
to all our "passions/' Says Sri Ramakrishna, "Direct the pas- 
sions to God. The impulse of lust should be turned into a 
desire to have communion with the Divine Spirit. Seek the 
company of the holy, be angry at those who stand in the way 
of God, be angry with your anger, feel greedy for Him. If 
you have the feeling of I and mine, then associate it with 
God. If you must have pride, then feel proud thinking that 
you are a servant of God, a child of God." How truly does 
the modern psychologist, Adler, remark: "By changing our 
opinion of ourselves we can also change ourselves." Swami 
Vivekananda said, "Teach yourself, teach everyone his real 
nature. Power will come, goodness will come, purity will 
come, everything that is excellent will come." The Hindu 
teacher goes to the very logical conclusion of this ideal to a 
point beyond the scope of the ordinary psychologist. 


By becoming a slave of passions, a human being in whom 
the higher moral consciousness has awakenedwhose "spirit 
is willing but whose flesh is weak" creates a great discord 
and disharmony within himself. His personality becomes dis- 
integrated. On the other hand, by giving a spiritual turn to 
the passions, by sublimating and purifying them, the aspirant 
comes to possess a greater and greater harmony and integra- 
tion within himself. 

Now we must aim at a still higher integration and try to 
coordinate our thinking, feeling and willing. Our conscious- 
ness is usually associated with one of these faculties which 
dominates the rest. We may be over-intellectual or too emo- 
tional or it may be we have too strong a will and want to be 
active without caring for reason or higher emotions. This 
creates a cleavage within ourselves. We must coordinate the 
faculties, but how? We must learn to disassociate ourselves 
from all the faculties and come to our individual conscious- 
ness, make it the subject of our meditation and keep it 
steady. When fiom this detached state we come back to the 
faculties, we are able to coordinate them and make them 

123 How to Integrate Our ^Personality 

work in a spirit of harmony for the common good. This is a 
great achievement. 

But from the standpoint of our highest ideal, this ego- 
centric meditation however useful it may be in giving our 
ego a mastery over the mind, senses and body is not enough. 
We have not yet striven for the highest integration, this we 
must do next. Dr. Jung writes, in his "Modern Man in 
Search of a Soul": ''The ego is ill for the very reason that it 
is cut off from the whole and has lost its connection with 
mankind as well as with the Spirit/' In his "The Integration 
of Personality" he makes a still more significant remark: "To 
be in Tao means fulfilment, wholeness . . . complete realiza- 
tion of the meaning of existence innate in things. Personality 
is Tao." Tao is the invisible, ungraspable, infinite Source of 
life the abode of truth, the origin of all things. Tao corre- 
sponds to the cosmic spirit, the Universal Being of the Hindu 


How are we to bring the ego in touch with the universal? 
With the help of prayer or hymns, spiritual texts or holy, 
mystic words, by repeating them and dwelling on their mean- 
ing, by meditating on the Divine Reality, we can create such 
a "music" in our soul such a harmonious state, that we rise 
above our little personality, our little ego, above our indi- 
vidual consciousness. Then we feel the touch of the Super- 
ego, the cosmic consciousness that lies in us all. It is in this 
state that the cosmic is realized to be more real than the in- 
dividual consciousness. Here the deepest integration takes 
place. When the soul comes back to normal consciousness, to 
the plane of the ego, mind and bodyit feels a remarkable 
integration. Individual consciousness remains looted in the 
universal and the spiritualized ego is in tune with the mind 
and the body which act as most obedient servants. Here per- 
sonality remains integrated in the One Impersonal and Uni- 
versal Being. 

Such a rare and blessed "personality" sees the Supreme 
Spirit within himself and in all beings. His mind is not 

VEDANTA For The Western World 124 

shaken by misery, nor upset by happiness. He becomes free 
from attachment, fear and anger. His body has become a 
veritable Divine temple. He radiates purity and love and 
becomes a source of abiding inspiration and blessing to all. 
We have heard from our spiritual teachers that real spiritual 
life begins after the obtainment of the superconscious state. 
But let us not dwell too much on the ideal. Having found 
the ideal, let us follow the path and move from lesser integra- 
tion to higher integration. We are assured that as we proceed 
higher and higher in the scale of perfection and integration, 
we shall enjoy greater and greater poise and harmony, peace 
and blessedness. Therefore let us awake, arise and move on 
till the goal is reached. 

^Distractions 7 1 


THE PETITION, "Thy Kingdom come/' has a necessary and 
unavoidable corollary, which is, "Our kingdom go." The 
condition of complete illumination is complete purgation. 
Only the purified soul can realize identity with Brahman; or, 
to change the religious vocabulary, union with God can 
never be achieved by the Old Adam, who must lose the life 
of self-will in order to gain the life of the divine will. These 
principles have been accepted as fundamental and axiomatic 
by all mystics, of whatever country, faith and period. 

When these principles are applied in practice, it is found 
that the personal kingdom which has to go, if the divine 
kingdom is to come, consists mainly of two great provinces, 
Passions and Distractions. Of the passions it is unnecessary to 
say much here, for the good reason that so much has been 
said elsewhere. Furthermore, it is, or should be, self-evident 
that "Thy kingdom" cannot possibly come for anyone who 
inhabits a home-made universe created for him by his own 
fear, greed, malice and anxiety. To help men to overcome 
these passions is the aim of all ethical teaching; and that 
overcoming is an essential preliminary and accompaniment 
to the life of mystical spirituality. Those who imagine that 
they can achieve illumination without purgation are ex- 
tremely mistaken. There is a letter addressed by St. Jeanne 
Chantal to one of the nuns of her order, a letter which 
should be placed in the hands of every beginner in the art 
of yoga or mental prayer. "I* faith," writes the saint, "I can 
well believe it when you say that you do not know what to 
answer those novices who ask you what is the difference be- 
tween union and contemplation. Lord God, how is it that 

i Portions of these two articles later formed part of a chapter in the author's 
"Grey Eminence." 


VEDANTA For The Western World 126 

my sister the Superior permits them such a thing, or that you 
permit it in her absence? Dear Jesus, where is humility? You 
must stop this at once, and give them books and lectures that 
treat of the practice of the virtues, and tell them that they 
must first set themselves to doing, and then they can talk 
about these exalted matters." 

But enough of this first and all-too-familiar province of 
our personal kingdom. It is not of the passions, but of those 
less frequently publicized impediments to the unitive life, 
distractions, that I mean to write in this place. 

Contemplatives have compared distractions to dust, to 
swarms of flies, to the movements of a monkey stung by a 
scorpion. Always their metaphors call up the image of a 
purposeless agitation. And this, precisely, is the interesting 
and important thing about distractions. The passions are es- 
sentially purposeful, and the thoughts, emotions and fancies 
connected with the passions always have more reference to 
the real or imaginary ends proposed, or to the means whereby 
such ends may be achieved. With distractions the case is 
quite different. It is of their essence to be irrelevant and 
pointless. To find out just how pointless and irrelevant they 
can be, one has only to sit down and try to recollect oneself. 
Preoccupations connected with the passions will most prob- 
ably come to the surface of consciousness; but along with 
them will rise a bobbing scum of miscellaneous memories, 
notions and imaginings childhood recollections of one's 
grandmother's Yorkshire terrier, the French name for hen- 
bane, a White-Knightish scheme for catching incendiary 
bombs in mid airin a word, every kind of nonsense and 
silliness. The psycho-analytic contention that all the divaga- 
tions of the sub-conscious have a deep passional meaning can- 
not be made to fit the facts. One has only to observe oneself 
and others to discover that we are no more exclusively the 
servants of our passions and biological urges than we are ex- 
clusively rational; we are also creatures possessed of a com- 
plicated psycho-physiological machine that is incessantly 
grinding away and that, in the course of its grinding, throws 
up into consciousness selections from that indefinite number 
of mental permutations and combinations which its random 
functioning makes possible. Most of these permutations and 


'Distractions / 

combinations have nothing to do with our passions or our 
rational occupations; they are just imbecilities mere casual 
waste products of psycho-physiological activity. True, such 
imbecilities may be made use of by the passions for their own 
ends, as when the Old Adam in us throws. up a barrage of 
intrinsically pointless abstractions in an attempt to nullify 
the creative efforts of the higher will. But even when not so 
used by the passions, even in themselves, distractions consti- 
tute a formidable obstacle to any kind of spiritual advance. 
The imbecile within us is as radically God's enemy as the 
passionately purposeful maniac, with his insane cravings and 
aversions. Moreover, the imbecile remains at large and busy 
long after the lunatic has been tamed or even destroyed. In 
other words, a man may have succeeded in overcoming his 
passions and replacing them by a fixed, one-pointed desire 
for enlightenment he may have succeeded in this, and yet 
still be hindered in his advance by the uprush into conscious- 
ness of pointless and irrelevant distractions. This is the rea- 
son why all advanced spirituals have attached so much im- 
portance to such imbecilities and have ranked them as grave 
imperfections, even as sins. It is, I think, to distractions or 
at least to one main class of distractions that Christ refers in 
that strangely enigmatic and alarming saying, "that every 
idle word that men bhall speak, they shall give account 
thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words shalt thou 
be justified and by thy words shalt thou be condemned." 
Verbalized idiocies, spoken irrelevances, all utterances, in- 
deed, that do not subserve the end of enlightenment must be 
classed as impediments, barriers between the soul and ulti- 
mate reality. They may seem harmless enough; but this 
harmlessness is only in relation to mundane things; in re- 
lation to spiritual and eternal ends, they are extremely harm- 
ful. In this context, I would like to quote a paragraph from 
the biography of that seventeenth-century French saint, 
Charles de Condren. A pious lady, named Mile, de la Roche, 
was in great distress, because she found it impossible to make 
a satisfactory confession. "Her trouble was that her sins 
seemed to her greater than she could say. Her faults were not 
considerable; nevertheless she felt unable, so she said, ever to 
express them. If the confessor told her that he was content 

VEDANTA For The Western World 128 

with her accusation of herself, she would answer that she was 
not satisfied and that, since she was not telling the truth, he 
could not give her absolution. If he pressed her to tell the 
whole truth, she found herself utterly incapable of doing so." 
Nobody knew what to say to this unfortunate woman, who 
came in time to be regarded as not quite right in the head. 
Finally she addressed herself to Condren, who relieved her 
of her misery by an explanation of her case which is of the 
highest interest. "It is true," he said, "that you have not ade- 
quately expressed your sins; but the fact is that, in this life, 
it is impossible to represent them in all their hideousness. 
We shall never know them as they really are, until we see 
them in the pure light of God. In your case, God has given 
you an impression of the deformity of sin, by which he makes 
you feel it to be incomparably graver than it appears to your 
understanding or can be expressed by your words. Hence 
your anguish and distress. You must therefore conceive of 
your sins as faith presents them to you, in other words, as 
they are in themselves; but you must content yourself with 
describing them in such words as your mouth can form." All 
that Condren says about poor Mile, de la Roche's no doubt 
very trifling sins applies with equal force to our distractions. 
Judged by ordinary human standards, they may seem of no 
account. And yet, as they are in themselves, as they are in re- 
lation to the light of God (which they are able completely to 
eclipse, as the sun is darkened by a dust storm or a cloud of 
grasshoppers) these seemingly trifling imperfections are seen 
to have as great a power for evil in the soul as anger, or an 
ugly greed, or some obsessive apprehension. 

It is because they mistrust the imbecile who, in the body 
of every human being, cohabits with the criminal lunatic, the 
easy-going animal, the good citizen and the potential, un- 
awakened, deeply latent saint, it is because they recognize 
his truly diabolic power, that the contemplatives have always 
imposed upon themselves and their disciples such rigid self- 
denial in the matter of all distracting and irrelevant stimuli. 
The Old Adam's restless curiosity must be checked and his 
foolishness, his dissipation of spirit turned to wisdom and 
one-pointedness. That is why the would-be mystic is always 
told to refrain from busying himself with matters which do 

1 2 9 'Distractions / 

not refer to his ultimate goal, or in relation to which he can- 
not effectively do immediate and concrete good. This self- 
denying ordinance covers most of the things with which, 
outside business hours, the ordinary person is mainly pre- 
occupiednews, the day's instalment of the various radio 
epics, this year's car models and gadgets, the latest fashions. 
But it is upon fashions, cars and gadgets, upon news and the 
advertising for which news exists, that our present industrial 
and economic system depends for its proper functioning. For, 
as ex-President Hoover pointed out not long ago, this system 
cannot work unless the demand for non-necessaries is not 
merely kept up, but continually expanded; and of course it 
cannot be kept up and expanded except by incessant appeals 
to greed, competitiveness and love of aimless stimulation. 
Men have always been a prey to distractions, which are the 
original sin of the mind; but never before today has an at- 
tempt been made to organize and exploit distractions, to 
make of them, because of their economic importance, the 
core and vital center of human life, to idealize them as the 
highest manifestations of mental activity. Ours is an age of 
systematized irrelevances, arid the imbecile within us has be- 
come one of the Titans, upon whose shoulders rests the 
weight of the social and economic system. Recollectedness, or 
the overcoming of distractions, has never been more neces- 
sary than now; it has also, we may guess, never been so 


T)istr actions II 


IN AN EARLIER ARTICLE I gave some account of the psycho- 
logical nature of distractions and of their significance as 
obstacles in the path of those who seek to attain enlighten- 
ment. In the paragraphs which follow, I shall describe some 
of the methods which have been found useful in overcoming 
these obstacles, in circumventing the tricks of the imbecile 
whom we carry about with us as a secondary personality. 

Distractions afflict us not only when we are attempting 
formal meditation or contemplation, but also and even more 
dangerously in the course of our active, everyday life. Many 
of those who undertake spiritual exercises, whether yogic or 
Christian, tend all too frequently to confine their efforts at 
concentrating the mind strictly to business hours that is to 
say, to the hours they actually spend in meditation. They 
forget that it is possible for a man or woman to achieve, dur- 
ing meditation, a high degree of mental concentration and 
even a kind of subjectively satisfying pseudo-ecstasy, while 
remaining at bottom an unregenerate ego. It is not an un- 
common thing to meet with people who spend hours of each 
day doing spiritual exercises and who, in the intervals, dis- 
play as much spite, prejudice, jealousy, greed and silliness as 
the most "unspiritual" of their neighbors. The reason for 
this is that such people make no effort to adapt to the exi- 
gencies of ordinary life those practices which they make use 
of during their times of formal meditation. This is, of course, 
not at all surprising. It is much easier to catch a glimpse of 
reality under the perfect conditions of formal meditation 
than to "practice the presence of God" in the midst of the 
boredoms, annoyances and constant temptations of family 
and professional life. What the English mystic, Benet Fitch, 
calls "active annihilation" or the sinking of the self in God 


1 3 1 ^Distractions II 

at every moment of the day, is much harder to achieve than 
"passive annihilation" in mental prayer. The difference be- 
tween the two forms of self-annihilation is analogous to the 
difference between scientific work under laboratory condi- 
tions and scientific work in the field. As every scientist knows, 
a great gulf separates the achievement of results in the lab- 
oratory and the application of one's discoveries to the untidy 
and disconcerting world outside its walls. Laboratory work 
and work in the field are equally necessary in science. Anal- 
ogously, in the practice of the unitive life, the laboratory 
work of formal meditation must be supplemented by what 
may be called "applied mysticism" during the hours of every- 
day activity. For this reason I propose to divide this article 
into two sections, the first dealing with distractions in times 
of recollection, the second with the obscuring and obstruc- 
tive imbecilities of daily life. 

All teachers of the art of mental prayer concur in advising 
their pupils never to struggle against the distractions which 
arise in the mind during recollection. The reason for this is 
simple. "The more a man operates, the more lie is and exists. 
And the more he is and exists, the less God is and exists 
within him." Every enhancement of the separate personal 
self produces a corresponding diminution of the conscious- 
ness of divine reality. But the voluntary struggle against dis- 
tractions automatically enhances the separate personal self 
and therefore reduces the individual's chance of coming to 
an awareness of reality. In the process of trying forcibly to 
abolish our God-eclipsing imbecilities, we merely deepen the 
darkness of our native ignorance. This being so, we must 
give up our attempt to fight distractions and find ways of 
circumventing and evading them. One method consists in 
simply "looking over the shoulder" of the imbecile who 
stands between us and the object of our meditation or our 
imageless contemplation. The distractions appear in the fore- 
ground of consciousness; w take notice of their presence, 
then lightly, without effort or tension of will, we shift the 
focus of attention to the reality in the background. In many 
cases the distractions will lose their obsessive "thereness" and 
gradually fade away. 

Alternatively, when distractions come, the attempt to prac- 

VEDANTA For The Western World 132 

tice imageless contemplation or the "simple regard" may be 
temporarily given up, and attenion directed to the distrac- 
tions themselves, which are then used as objects of discursive 
meditation, preparatory to another return to the "simple re- 
gard" later on. Two methods of making profitable use of dis- 
tractions are commonly recommended. The first consists in 
objectively examining the distractions, and observing which 
of them have their origins in the passions and which of them 
arise in the imbecile side of the mind. The process of follow- 
ing thoughts and images back to their source, of uncovering, 
here the purposive and passional, there the merely imbecile 
manifestations of egotism, is an admirable exercise in men- 
tal concentration, as well as a means for increasing that self- 
knowledge which is one of the indispensable pre-requisites 
to a knowledge of God. "A man/' wrote Meister Eckhart, 
"has many skins in himself, covering the depths of his heart. 
Man knows so many other things; he does not know himself. 
Why, thirty or forty skins or hides, just like an ox's or a 
bear's, so thick and hard, cover the soul. Go into your own 
ground and learn to know yourself there." The dispassionate 
and scientific examination of distractions is one of the best 
ways of knowing the "thirty or forty skins" which constitute 
our personality, and discovering, beneath them, the Self, the 
immanent Godhead, the Kingdom of Heaven within us. Dis- 
cursive meditation on the skins passes naturally into a simple 
regard directed to the ground of the soul. 

The second method of making use of distractions for the 
purpose of defeating distractions is merely a variant on the 
first. The difference between the two methods is a difference 
in the quality of the emotional tone accompanying the ex- 
amination of the disturbing thoughts and images. In the first 
method, the examination is dispassionate; in the second, it is 
accompanied by a sense of contrition and self-humiliation. 
In the words of the author of "The Cloud of Unknowing,*' 
"when thou feelest that thou mayest in no wise put them 
(distractions, imbecile and passional) down, cower then down 
under them as a caitiff and a coward overcome in battle, and 
think that it is but folly to strive any longer with them, and 
therefore thou yieldest thyself to God in the hands of thine 
enemies. And feel then thyself as though thou wert overcome 

133 Distractions // 

forever. . . . And surely, I think, if this device be truly con- 
ceived, it is naught else but a true knowing and a feeling of 
thyself as thou art, a wretch and a filthy thing, far worse than 
naught: the which knowing and feeling is meekness. And 
this meekness meriteth to have God himself mightily de- 
scending, to venge thee on thine enemies, so as to take thee 
up and cherishingly dry thy ghostly eyes, as the father doth 
his child that is on the point to perish under the mouths of 
wild swine or mad biting bears." 

We now come to the problem of dealing with distractions 
in common life in the field rather than in the laboratory. 
Active annihilation or, to use the phrase made familiar by 
Brother Lawrence, the constant practice of the presence of 
God at all moments of the day, is a work of supreme diffi- 
culty. Most of those who attempt it make the mistake of 
treating field work as though it were laboratory work. Find- 
ing themselves in the midst of things, they turn away from 
things, either physically, by retreat, or psychologically, by an 
act of introversion. But the shrinking from things and neces- 
sary external activities is an obstacle in the way of self- 
annihilation; for to shrink from things is to assert by impli- 
cation that things still mean a great deal to one. Introversion 
from things for the sake of God may, by giving them undue 
importance, exalt things to the place that should be occupied 
by God. What is needed, therefore, is not physical flight or 
introversion from things, but the capacity to undertake 
necessary activity in a spirit of non-attachment, of self- 
annihilation in reality. This is, of course, the doctrine of the 
Gita. (It should be noted, however, that the Gita if it is 
meant to be taken literally, which one hopes it isn't suggests 
that it is possible to commit murder in a state of self- 
annihilation in God. In various forms, this doctrine of non- 
attachment has been used by aberrant sectaries of every 
religion to justify every kind of wickedness and folly, from 
sexual orgies to torture. But, as a matter of plain psycho- 
logical fact, such activities are entirely unannihilable in God. 
Going to war, like the heroes of the Gita, indulging in un- 
limited sexual promiscuity, like some of the Illuminati of 
the West, are activities which cannot result in anything but 
an enhancement of the separate personal self and an eclipsing 

VEDANTA For The Western World 134 

of divine reality. Non-attachment cannot be practiced except 
in relation to intrinsically good or ethically neutral actions; 
the idea that it can be practiced in relation to bad actions is 
a delusion, springing from the wish of the ego to go on be- 
having badly, while justifying such behavior by means of a 
high and apparently spiritual philosophy.) 

To achieve the active annihilation, by which alone the dis- 
tractions of common life may be overcome, the aspirant must 
begin by avoiding, not merely all bad actions, but also, if 
possible, all unnecessary and silly ones. Listening to the 
average radio program, seeing the average motion picture, 
reading the comic stripsthese are merely silly and imbecile 
activities; but though not wicked, they are almost as un- 
annihilable as the activities of lynching and fornication. For 
this reason it is obviously advisable to avoid them. 

Meanwhile, what is to be done in the psychological field? 
First, it is necessary to cultivate a constant awareness of the 
reality that is everything and the personal self that is less 
than nothing. Only on this condition can the desired non- 
attachment be achieved. No less important than the avoid- 
ance of unnecessary and unannihilable activities and the 
cultivation of awareness is emptying of the memory and the 
suppression of foreboding. Anyone who pays attention to his 
mental processes soon discovers that a large proportion of his 
time is spent in chewing the cud of the past and foretasting 
the future. We return to the past, sometimes because ran- 
dom memories rise mechanically into consciousness; some- 
times because we like flattering our egotism by the recalling 
of past triumphs and pleasures, the censoring and embellish- 
ing of past pains and defeats; sometimes, too, because we are 
sick of ourselves and, thinking to "repent of our sins" return 
with a gloomy satisfaction to old offences. As for the future, 
our preoccupation with it is sometimes apprehensive, some- 
times compensatory and wishful. In either case, the present 
is sacrificed to dreams of no longer existent or hypothetical 
situations. But it ?s a matter of empirical observation that 
the road to spiritual eternity is through the immediate 
animal eternity of the specious present. None can achieve 
eternal life who has not first learned to live, not in the past 
or in the future, but now in the moment at the moment. 

1 3 5 ^Distractions // 

Concerning the God-eclipsing folly of taking anxious thought 
for the future the Gospels have much to say. Sufficient unto 
the day is the evil thereof and, we might add, sufficient unto 
the place. We make a habit of feeling disquietude about 
distant evils, in regard to which we can do no good, and we 
think that such disquietude is a sign of our sensibility and 
compassion. It would probably be more nearly true to say, 
with St. John of the Cross, that "disquietude is always vanity, 
because it serves no good. Yea, even if the whole world were 
thrown into confusion, and all things in it, disquietude on 
that account would still be vanity/ 1 What is true of things 
remote in space and in the future is also true of things re- 
mote in the past. We must teach ourselves not to waste our 
time and our opportunities to know reality by dwelling on 
our memories. Let the dead bury their dead. "The emptying 
of the memory," says St. John of the Cross, "though the ad- 
vantages of it are not so great as those of the state ot union, 
yet merely because it delivers souls from much sorrow, grief 
and sadness, besides imperfections and sins, is in itself a great 

Such, then, in briefest summary, are some of the methods 
by which distractions can be overcome, not merely in the 
laboratory of formal meditation, but also (which is much 
harder) in the world of common life. As always, it is enor- 
mously easier to write and read about such methods than to 
put them into practice. 


^Dryness and ^Dark 


ONCE ANYONE REALIZES that real growth of the spirit can be 
made he becomes interested in method. He sees that he 
need no longer leave his life to accident, nor drift and 
look to amusement to give living whatever meaning it may 
have: he sees that he must set about intentional living, he 
must undertake training, he must coordinate all his activ- 
ities and his whole way of life along the path which has 
appeared and toward the goal at which that path aims. This 
insight, or foresight, raises a number of questions. How is 
he to set about his new task? How much of his past life, 
which was based upon deliberate distraction and amuse- 
ment, can remain? When anyone changes over from a way 
of living in which it was taken for granted that however 
you lived, the fundamental fact was that Life meant nothing 
and went nowhere, to a way of living in which the meaning 
of Life is apprehended and the place of the individual in 
that scheme has been discovered, then there must be very 
considerable modification of the things that are done as well 
as of the thoughts that are thought. Right Livelihood, the 
fifth step in the Eightfold Path to Liberation and Enlighten- 
ment, is something more than abstention from certain de- 
barred occupations and professions such as armament manu- 
facturing or white slave trafficking. It is even something more 
than abstaining from gambling in Stocks and Bonds or from 
being absorbed in the advertising business. It is getting rid 
of everything which may distract one's attention from the 
one end and purpose of living. Many things which are ob- 
viously of no particular harm to any one else have to be put 
out of the way not because they are harmful in themselves 
but because they take up too much time and attention when 
all the time one has and all the attention which one can 


137 T)ryness and T)ark flight 

command is required for the one main purpose which now 
makes meaning of every moment. Most people think that as 
long as what they do harms no one else and is not unhealthy 
for them there is no reason why they should not enjoy them- 
selves whatever way they please. This familiar standard of 
morality cannot, however, satisfy those who have found the 
meaning of their life. For them every moment is precious and 
every ounce of attention is husbanded to bring them as soon 
as may be to their goal. 

But once that is clear to them, and once they have resolved 
that only so they can live, they have to ask, How best may I 
get to my End? Most of us find that the discovery that life 
has a meaning, a meaning as urgent as it is vast, breaks on us 
with a shock of surprise and also delight. "So after all that 
we see about us, the pointless lives of most individuals, the 
blind clash of classes, the hideous anarchy of the nations, 
Life has a meaning, it goes somewhere, we can go with it." 
That is the huge wave of relief. The accepted nightmare 
which drives men to addictions, to possessiveness, to pride 
and violence and despair, is false. Then comes also the wave 
of counter-concern. If that is true, then there is not a mo- 
ment to be wasted. Already one has wasted so much. "Work 
while ye have the light; the night cometh when no man may 
work." It is urgent not to waste a moment more of the all- 
too-few hours of daylight. So there is a double pressure urg- 
ing us to use every second. There is the attraction of the goal 
and there is the rapidly passing opportunity of working on 
the means to the goal. This sense of stress and attraction 
undoubtedly sometimes makes beginners suffer from anxiety 
and a kind of febrile haste. This may be one of the causes of 
disappointment and that giving-out of interest which is gen- 
erally called "dryness." There is much need here, it is obvi- 
ous, for good teaching and wise guiding. Even if we start 
young, which is uncommon in the West, we are by nature 
an impatient lot and all human beings, whether of the 
East or the West seem to have this factor in common that 
their lives are run on what we may call an "alternating" 
rather than on a "continuous" current. With the best will in 
the world and with the wisest training it does not seem pos- 
sible for them to avoid a certain, and perhaps a necessary 

VEDANTA For The Western World 138 

fluctuation. Now this it is which is so difficult for the ardent 
and anxious beginner to endure and it is here therefore 
that it is very interesting to try and compare the findings 
both of the masters of the West and also of the East as to 
how far this ebb and flow is necessary and how far the fluc- 
tuationslike those of unemployment may be "flattened 
out" as the economists say, so as to save the booms and 
slumps. The obvious question here is whether the slumps 
as in employmentmight not be saved, by "back-pedalling" 
when the booms are on. Psychologists have taught for a long 
while those of their patients who have a tendency to too big 
a fluctuation, and so are honored with the fine frenzied title 
of Manic-Depressive Types, to check the moment of elation 
and so save themselves from the moment of depression. But, 
beyond this very natural and practical advice, may we not 
learn more? Quite obviously there are a number of rules for 
the spiritual life which apply to all of us whether we are 
stolid or excitable. There is a lower limit of observance and 
practice which if we go under it we shall be simply slothful 
and not making any real effect on the will and the character. 
After all, we are like people in a ship which has a leak and 
which is making for the shore. We must work at a certain 
pace at the pumps or the water will gain on us, rising in the 
hold and we shall founder before we can be safely beached. 
But there is also a higher 'limit, a limit above which strain 
comes on. To use the same simile again: there comes a time 
when the crew may wear itself out in pumping and so have 
to abandon their labor before the shore is reached. The leak 
cannot be wholly stopped, what we have to do (at least we 
beginners) is to keep the water level down, to keep on pump- 
ing out more or at least as much as is coming in. Now our 
question is where do those limits lie? To take another simile, 
this time from Alpine climbing. The young when they go 
out with an experienced guide are always surprised at the 
slow and almost loitering pace at which he starts. They can- 
not endure this diHtoriness. They swing off ahead but when 
the sun is up and the higher slopes are reached, he passes 
them for they have to sit down exhausted in order to get 
back their strength. His set pace is a thought-out balance 
between fatigue and the distance to be covered and the time 

139 "Dry ness and T)ark Slight 

for covering that distance. It is significant that all Alpine 
distances are given not in kilometers but in hours and min 
utes it is a well-thought-out race, however slow it looks, a 
race between the time before the sun will set and the energy 
at the climber's disposal. Some violent fluctuations would 
therefore seern to be due to lack of foresight on our part. 
After all, risks are nearly always taken and accidents nearly 
always happen because we will not look ahead. Instead we 
suddenly see an oncoming difficulty and try to get out of it 
without sufficient time in which to make the necessary change. 
But there are deeper rules of fluctuation and of ebb and 
flow which do not seem due to our present mistakes and 
carelessness. Nor under our present control. In learning a 
language, a golf-swing, the piano, in every skill where knowl- 
edge has to combine with knack and blend into skill, there 
seems a wave-motion, an ebb and flow. There is a period of 
rapid surface-mind learning and then a disappointing ebb 
when even that which was thought to have been mastered 
disappears. It seems possible that during this disappointing 
time some deeper process is going on, what may perhaps be 
called a period of storage and profound modification and, 
again it may be, no new knowledge or knack could safely be 
taken in unless first of all the first load had been safely 
stowed and room and relation found for it in the ways and 
means, the methods and functions of the body-mind. We are 
probably far more full up than we know and a new knowl- 
edge and power must always mean a modification of old ones. 
But still again beyond this recognition of gaps, and waits 
and periods when we seem to "lose way" as sailors say and 
"hang fire/' there are deeper dips. What of those states which 
the western saints and contemplatives call the Dark Nights 
of the Soul? Here a number of difficulties confront the re- 
searcher. First there is the difficulty of the words themselves. 
Do all the writers mean the same thing when they use this 
same title? It seems difficult to think that they do. For ex- 
ample a textual authority on Western Mysticism such as 
Dr. W. R. Inge gives in his collection of Excerpts from 
various spiritual authorities ("Freedom, Love and Truth," 
pp. 160-161) as examples of the Dark Night passages from 
Ruysbroek and the Theologia Germanica two sources near 

V ED ANT A For The Western World 140 

one another in date and place. But the Ruysbroek passage 
where he talks of an Autumn of maturing fruits after the 
lush springing of summer seems to refer to Dryness and a 
fruitful dryness at that, a rich reflection after a high experi- 
ence, and not to deep despairs and utter emptiness. Ruys- 
broek mentions physical losses and hardships as being part 
of his "Autumn." The desolation of the Night seems in 
other cases so profound that they would be quite unaware 
if they were given all the health in the world or lost their 
closest relations. The Theologia Germanica says the Soul 
is sent to Hell, and medievalists did not use that term 
lightly. The loss of the Presence //mf alone counts and to 
regain that is the one hope. In these latter cases, then, there 
does not seem a storage, an autumn harvesting going on. 
Rather, it would seem we might say, the very barn itself 
is being harvested, cut down and taken to pieces. Here we 
seem past the acquiring of virtues and the abandonment of 
vices and specific weaknesses. It is the very Self itself which 
is being challenged and attacked. Eckhart, who does not seem 
to say much about the Dark Night as a specific termper- 
haps because he welcomed ityet teaches a path which cer- 
tainly with most good people would lead to acute distress. 
He says that there are three things which keep us from God 
and, it would seem, three stages whereby we may and do re- 
turn to Him. The first is by loosing ourselves from our spe- 
cific sins, the second is by loosening ourselves from all sense 
of self and the third by loosening ourselves from Time. 
Many a Westerner when he reads even those introductory 
lines of Emerson's 

The strong gods pine for my abode, 
And pine in vain the sacred Seven; 
But thou, meek lover of the good! 
Find me, and turn thy back on heaven. 

feels a certain chill. And certainly Christianity has never been 
comfortable with what its teachers called Oriental Nihilism, 
though, it is all the more important to note, all the master 
saints of Christendom as they climb beyond a certain height 
seem to view the same prospect which so daunts those on the 
lower levels. 

1 4 1 "Dry ness and 'Dark 

Perhaps such high matters should not concern beginners. 
Perhaps all we on our level have to fear is quite common 
laziness, the wish for comfort and excitement, the impatience 
with the slow assimilation, the lack of advance because we 
will not let fall much that makes, by its weight and back-pull, 
our advance necessarily slower than it need be, would we 
abandon more. Still the problem remains as one of interest 
to all students of humanity. How much of our difficulties, 
even the difficulties of the advanced, is due to ignorance, 
which greater knowledge could remove, and how much is 
due to the necessities of the case? An entomologist was par- 
ticularly anxious to hatch out successfully' a valuable moth 
which had been found in its cocoon stage. The moment 
came when it began to emerge. It was watched with delighted 
care. But just when the dangerous emergency seemed safely 
over, one of the beautiful wings, which made so largely the 
value of the specimen, remained caught in the husk of the 
cocoon. In vain the moth seemed to struggle to get free 
and at last it seemed quite clear to the anxious watcher that 
the insect's strength was failing and that it must die in the 
vain struggle. As it lay helpless and exhausted on its side, 
trapped and inert, the watcher snipped with sterilized scissors 
the stiffened edge of the cocoon. The wing was released. The 
insect crawled out free. But it could not fly; the specimen 
was ruined. The wing remained curled and shrivelled. That 
final struggle to the limits of life and strength seems to have 
been necessary. The circulation was not driven into the 
delicate veins of the wing and so it could not expand. The 
agonizing effort was not merely to get free but to grow whole, 
not merely to get out into the new world of winged flight 
but to have, full of power and energy, the fully unfolded 
wings, without which the new and larger life was vain and 
a mockery. So it may be with our struggles. We may be made, 
not merely to win the larger life, but, through the agony of 
effort, to attain the powers and capacities and the quality of 
consciousness to function fully and rightly in that life. 


Realize the Truth 



WE SHOULD HAVE THE IDEAL fixed that neither worldly nor 
heavenly pleasures are our goal and that our ultimate goal is 
Self-Realization. It is neither this world nor heaven, nor any 
other world we seek. Heavenly enjoyment is no better than 
earthly enjoyment, and so long as there is hankering after 
heavenly enjoyment, we can never attain the goal. We must 
yearn for God more than for His creation either in heaven 
or on earth. 

Before we actually begin our spiritual life in real earnest, 
we must decide if we are really fully prepared to pay the 
price. We must fix once for all our ideal, our conduct of life, 
and then stick to it whatever happens. If we wish to transcend 
all the unrealities, there must always be a certain amount of 
the dare-devil in us, a certain amount of fearlessness and true 
heroism. Unless we are prepared to sacrifice all our worldly 
desires and our sense of I-ness, we can never hope to realize 
the higher ideal. "Give us discrimination, give us renuncia- 
tion, give devotion and knowledge" let us pray to the Divine. 


We should practice a certain amount of control and dis- 
crimination regarding the food we take. And so long as we 
are in the body, the body must be properly taken care of and 
nourished to keep it a fit instrument for the realization of 
the Divine and for the Divine's work. There is much more 
body-consciousness in the person who is ill or weak than in 
the perfectly healthy and normal person, and we have to see 
that our body-consciousness is reduced to a minimum if we 
want to make good progress in spiritual life. 


143 Realize the Truth 

Unless our mind is to be to some extent pure and non- 
attached and prepared for renunciation, we can never even 
think of God-Realization. Try to purify your heart, to purify 
your mind as much as possible. Then the blazing fire of 
spiritual realization will burn away all desires. 


Few people can begin their spiritual practice with the 
meditation on the Formless and Attributeless Aspect of the 
Divine. Even the conception of God without form but with 
attributes is beyond the grasp of the many. So long as it is 
impossible for us to form even an idea of the Divine in both 
His transcendent and immanent aspects, we should first of all 
try to think of the Divine Glory as manifest through the 
Holy Personalities the great incarnations and Prophets of 
mankind. It is very easy for us to speak of worshiping God 
in truth and in spirit. But since, as a matter of fact, we can- 
not do so, it becomes a meaningless phrase and nothing more. 

We think in terms of our small, limited, impure, indi- 
vidual consciousness, but the Great Ones think in terms of 
the Infinite Consciousness. We are like small, tiny, self- 
forgetful bubbles, while they are like mountain-high waves 
that always are conscious of their ocean-origin. The ocean 
never comes to be limited by the wave-form. 

The Incarnation is a glorious manifestation, but never the 
whole of God who is the reality at the back of ordinary 
beings also. 

Tiny bubbles that we are, we find it difficult to understand 
even a full-wave-consciousness. By worshiping and medi- 
tating on the Great Ones, we are raised to a realization of 
their higher consciousness. This breaks the bonds of our lim- 
ited existence and brings in a new light, a deeper awareness 
that lies hidden in the depths of our being. The waves bring 
us in contact with the ocean. By lifting ourselves consciously 
to the plane of their knowledge, we get rid of all our false 
notions, of our being identified with the body, of being men 
and women. Dropping the limiting adjuncts, we get a new 
and purer sense of existence a universal consciousness that 
gives the true meaning to our individual existence and life. 

VEDANTA For The Western World 144 


In trying to separate itself from the ocean the bubble runs 
the risk of bursting its bubble-form, as it can never exist 
without the contact of the ocean. But the trouble is that we 
are not conscious of this great fact. We consider ourselves to 
be separate entities, separate from the ocean, separate from 
one another. When this initial mistake is made through 
ignorance, all other mistakes follow as a matter of course and 
make our life one of endless misery. 

Although we may take our limited existence to be abso- 
lutely real at first, we find, on deeper consideration and ex- 
perience, that it is not so. The false conception of reality is 
wholly due to ignorance. It is through this that we come to 
cherish many a petty and ignoble idea and suffer because of 
that. However, by getting rid of the false conception, we rise 
above all illusory, limiting adjuncts and regain our true na- 
ture, the true dignity and glory of the Divine in us, who is 
not only our Self but is the Self of >all. 


In the beginning of our spiritual life we have to create our 
own images, but these should always be images of which the 
pattern is right, i.e., imaginations of something that is real, 
not of something wholly imaginary. Some stress the sense of 
the Presence more than the form, although they, too, may 
call up the form. The same Being permeates both the form 
called up and the devotee, as It is the devotee's own eternal 
Being his true Self. 

Just think that your heart or head is permeated with the 
Divine Effulgence, and that His Light is part of the Infinite 
Light that pervades everything. Melt away your whole per- 
sonality, your I-ness, into That. Melt away your body, your 
senses, your emotions, into That. Just imagine this very 
vividly. And then this infinite ocean of Light takes shape as 
part of this Light ind becomes solidified in the form of your 
Ishtam (chosen Deity), but never lose sight of the Infinite 
background of which your Ishtam and you, yourself, as well 
as all others are parts and which permeates all these. The 
ocean, the One Eternal Principle, lying at the back of both 

145 Realize the Truth 

yourself and the whole universe, must never be lost sight of, 
because it is That which is to be fully realized by you one day. 
But one who does not lead a pure life and is not disci- 
plined, ought never to follow this instruction, because medi- 
tation becomes dangerous in the case of a person who is not 
properly prepared and has not gone through the proper pre- 
liminary training. 


Only one who has really passed through strenuous self- 
effort can give himself up and surrender himself wholly and 
unconditionally at the feet of the Divine. All forms of striv- 
ing make the mind pure and fit for the Divine touch. And 
self-surrender can be accomplished only after having gone 
through one's spiritual practice with great perseverance and 
doggedness. Self-surrender can come only when our wings 
are dead-tired like those of the bird sitting on the ship's 
mast who flies off in search of land and, finding none, returns 
to the mast again. 

Too much activity is very dangerous, because it usually 
becomes like the aimless activity of the monkey. This kind 
of activity is just restlessness, and we see it in people who are 
terribly afraid to be left to themselves. But on the other side 
we find a form of so-called self-surrender, that is nothing 
more than inertness, indolence, lethargy. And this is just as 
bad as aimless activity. The true aspirant should always try 
to combine both: activity of the right kind, and self-surrender. 


Religion is something different from, and something more 
than, book-knowledge. Through mere scholarship, through 
mere intellectual study you can never learn the Truth. When 
we think too much and too highly of intellectual life, we can 
never realize the essential truths of religion. 

"Let one study as well as he can, master the subjects, but 
after becoming a great scholar, let him renounce desires and 
try to live upon the strength which comes from knowledge/' 

One must be free from all guile, from all falsehood, all 
lack of uprightness, from all the perversities of the mind, 

VEDANTA For The Western World 146 

and then become a man of meditation, if one wants to make 
real spiritual progress. 

Having known the essentials of spiritual life, having 
formed a clear idea of the Divine, you should try to practice 
the disciplines. Do not read too many empty words. That 
creates only disturbance and trouble. Now, this does not 
mean that you should not go in for studies, but you should 
make it a point to study with a view to realize the Truth, 
and along with your studies there must be some real spiritual 
practice day by day. You must always train your intellect and 
have your fixed studies, thinking deeply on the studies, so 
that you would feel uncomfortable the day that you have not 
studied anything deeply, pondering over it and over the 
truths it contains. This daily study is to be made an impor- 
tant item of your spiritual practice. 


Sri Ramakrishna's message is: "Be spiritual and realize the 
Truth yourself." By living the spiritual life, we can make the 
Divine living in our own life. The Master shows us how we 
may overcome sex and greed, our greatest obstacles on the 
path of all spiritual progress. He wishes us to have a new 
outlook towards ourselves and others; men as well as women 
must have the Divine outlook and not think of themselves 
in terms of sex and body. To see the Divine in oneself and 
in all others, men and women, is the only solution for the 
world-problem of sex and the relation between the sexes. 
This is a most vital point to note for the spiritual aspirant. 
You can never rise above the sex-idea by just hating woman 
or man, as many mystics of the Middle Ages tried to do. 
Something more is needed: The Divine is in me, in all, in 
everything. "I am not a man, I am not a woman, I am the 


It was the mission of Buddha's life to ask people not to 
think too much of philosophies and metaphysics, of rites and 
ceremonies, but to make religion the Spiritual Law a liv- 
ing force in their lives by leading a life of purity, meditation, 
spiritual discipline and control. What did Buddha say of 

147 Realize the *Truth 

God? He was silent on the point. It is not essential to speak 
of God so much, but far more essential to follow God's path, 
to live the spiritual life. What is the use of saying: 4 'O Lord, 
how beautiful Thou art! How beautiful are Thy skies, Thy 
stars, Thy whole creation!" The Creator is always greater 
than His creation and does not feel proud of it. Seen from 
our human standpoint we find it great, but to God it is in- 
significant. So it is more important to follow God's path than 
to praise God eternally, without ever doing anything. This 
lip-service is of no use to the aspirant. 

Once Buddha was asked, "Sir, is there a God?" "Did I say 
there is a God?" "Then there is no God, Sir?" was the ques- 
tion. "Did I say there is no God?" came the reply. Buddha 
wanted to stop all empty and hair-splitting discussions and 
speculations and make people do something. So he said, 
"When a house is on fire, do you first go and trace the origin 
of the fire or do you try to extinguish it?" But we in our fool- 
ishness very often try to trace the origin first, but before we 
have succeeded in the attempt, the whole house is burnt 
down and nothing remains of it but a heap of ashes. 

We always want everything to be done for us by somebody 
else. There can be no vicarious salvation without self-effort 
on the part of the aspirant. Most so-called religious people 
are mere parasites in the world of religion and spiritual life. 
It would be better for them to take up something else. 


During the period of our spiritual training we must try as 
much as possible to avoid all temptation, both in its gross 
and subtle forms. We should salute anything that may be- 
come an object of temptation to us, from a safe distance. Let 
us not go near it. We must not rely too much on our own 
strength for a long time to come. We have such a dirty mind 
full of filthy impressions that once it is really stirred up it 
may create no end of troubles. Lust and hatred, greed, vul- 
garity, all these are lying hidden in us and waiting to make 
us their prey. And so we must be on our guard. 

Always the trouble arises through our being too little 
aware of the danger in the form of a tiny and apparently in- 

VEDANTA For The Western World 148 

significant ripple in the mind. The outer stimulus, even if it 
be a very subtle and scarcely perceptible one, gradually af- 
fects the mind. Sometimes even the memory of some old im- 
pure impression is enough to upset us, because the germ or 
the seed is always inside, never outside. Unless the seed be 
inside, it can never sprout. 

Attachment in any form may be enough to muddle the 
brain and bring about the spiritual ruin of the aspirant, but 
when attachment and anger combine, the whole mind be- 
comes chaotic, and all progress is stopped. All struggle for 
the Higher Life comes to an end when passion has its way 
over a person. That is why we should carefully avoid any 
harmful stimulus, even if it be a very subtle one, and keep 
our mind engaged with the higher thoughts. We should not 
give an opportunity to the lower propensities and impulses, 
and avoid as much as possible the company of persons of the 
other sex as well as that of those of our own sex who do not 
lead a strictly moral life, at least during the period of our 
spiritual training. 

"Fill the mind with Vedantic thoughts until you fall 
asleep or until this body of yours drops off." 

We should not give an opportunity to the passions to sway 
us. It is the nature of the mind to think, and if we do not 
give good and pure thoughts to the mind by avoiding all old 
impure associations, it is bound to think of bad and impure 
ones. So be up and doing: Always be on your guard and fol- 
low the path intelligently and assiduously. 


O Lord, with the passing of every day the duration of life 
is seen to shorten, and youth to decay. The days that are gone 
never come back; time verily is the devourer of the world. 
Fortune is fickle and short-lived as ripples on the surface of 
water; while life is momentary like a flash of lightning. 
Therefore, O Thou refuge of all, do Thou even now protect 
me who seek refuge in Thee. 

May the wicked become virtuous. May the virtuous attain 
tranquillity. May the tranquil be free from bonds. May the 
freed make others free. 

The Mystic Word "OM 


FROM VEDIC TIMES until the present day the word "OM" has 
been taken as a symbol and as an aid to meditation by 
spiritual aspirants. It is accepted both as one with Brahman 
and as the medium, the Logos, connecting man and God. It 
15 God, and by its aid man may realize God. The entire his- 
tory of the syllable is in the revelations of the Vedas and the 
Upanishads, and this history in the hands of the later phi- 
losophers developed into what became known as Sphota- 
vada, or philosophy of the Word. Later also than the Vedas 
and the Upanishads we discover the doctrine of the Logos 
among Greek metaphysicians, and this in turn influenced the 
writer of the Fourth Gospel. 

The Sphota-vada, however, is not precisely the philosophy 
of the Logos of the Greek philosophers. The Greeks first con- 
ceived of the Logos as a bridge over the gulf that separates 
man and God, the known and the unknown. The earliest 
Greek conception of the Logos was a crude one. It was iden- 
tified with one or another of the physical elements, according 
as the source of the universe was thought to have been one 
or another of these. Heraclitus, who lived in the sixth cen- 
tury B.C., was the first to break away from a purely physical 
conception of creation, substituting for the material first 
cause of his predecessors a principle which he called intelli- 
gence. This principle of intelligence was the Logos. The ad- 
vance Heraclitus made, however, was rendered somewhat 
equivocal by his identification of the Logos with the physical 
element fire. 

With Plato the theory of the Logos underwent a complete 
transformation. He regarded the Logos, or Word, as the 
supersensual image, the "idea" or "thought** in God, word 
and thought being inseparable. And the visible universe, he 


VEDANTA For The Western World 150 

thought, is the imperfect shadow of the idea, the Logos. 

The Stoics denied the validity of Plato's supersensual 
archetypes, accepting rather the essential theory of Heraclitus 
and freeing it from the illogicality to which attention has 
been drawn. Like Heraclitus, the Stoics perceived the prin- 
ciple of reason immanent and active in the universe. This 
eternal reason, "made concrete in the endless variety of the 
physical world," became the Logos of the Stoics, and this 
Logos in reality resided in the soul of man, who might rise 
above all limitations by realizing its presence within him. 

Somewhat later came Philo of Alexandria, a Jewish phi- 
losopher and contemporary of Jesus of Nazareth, who at- 
tempted to harmonize Stoic reason with the transcendental- 
ism of Plato. Philo declared that the Logos was not only 
immanent in the universe but was transcendent as well, one 
with God. 

According to the Stoics, the Eternal Reason was the ulti- 
mate principle, and the necessity of its transcendental ex- 
istence they did not admit. Stoicism may in fact be regarded 
as an attempt to escape from an admission of the existence of 
a transcendental God. Philo, on the contrary, insisted on the 
existence of a supreme self-existent Deity, and on the Stoic 
Logos, or Reason, as related subordinately to Him, this rela- 
tion being, however, of the nature of identity. Philo called 
this Logos the "Son of God/' and "the only begotten Son of 
God," as being God's first manifestation. Later the Logos as- 
sumed concrete form as the universe. 

The author of the Fourth Gospel accepted this conception 
of the Alexandrian Philo but gave it new expression to serve 
the theological needs of Christianity. 1 The Logos, that is, 
which is identical with God, and through which the universe 
was created, was "made flesh" in Jesus Christ. Thus Jesus, 
one with the Logos, became the "only begotten son of God," 
and in Jesus, therefore, there was identity of being with God 
the Father. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word 
was with God, and the Word was God." This verse is almost 
identical with a verse in the Vedas: "Prajapatir vai idam agre 
asitln the beginning was Prajapati (Brahman); Tasya vag 

* Cf. J. Reville, La Doctrine du Logos dans la quatrilme Evangile et dans 
les Ocuvrcs de Philon. 

1 5 1 The ^Mystic Word "O<M" 

dvitiya asit With whom was the Word; Vag vai Paramam 
Brahma And the Word was verily the Supreme Brahman/' 

The Philonic and Johannean conceptions of the Logos 
may conceivably owe no debt to Indian thought, for the 
truth is no monopoly of any race or nation, and with spir- 
itual growth the same truth is often realized by different 
peoples independently of one another. Yet it is also possible 
that both Greek philosophers and Christian theologians were 
in some degree under obligations to India for their initial 
ideas, since it is a well-known fact that Hindu philosophy 
exercised a strong influence upon the minds of early Western 

Not only, however, are there general points of similarity 
between the Eastern conception of the Logos and that which 
took root in the West, but there are also differences between 
the Greek and Christian Logos and the Hindu Sphota-vada 
that are quite as great. To the Hindu mind, the expressed 
sensible universe is the form behind which stands the eternal 
inexpressible, the Sphota, the manifester as Logos, or Word. 
This Eternal Sphota, the essential material of all ideas or 
names, is the power through which God creates the uni- 
verse. 1 Iswara, Brahman conditioned by Maya, first manifests 
Himself as the Sphota, the inexpressible Word, out of which 
He evolves as the concrete, sensible world. The Christian 
Logos is not, however, regarded as the material cause of the 
Universe, for God according to Christianity is only an effi- 
cient cause. 

The Christian Logos, as we read in the Fourth Gospel, 
"was made flesh, and dwelt among us (and we behold his 
glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father), full of 
grace and truth." There is here a second interesting differ- 
ence between the Christian and the Hindu Logos. The 
Christian Logos was incarnate once, in the person of Jesus, 
whereas the Sphota of the Hindus was and is and will be 
incarnate in all persons and not in persons only but in all 

1 Patanjali, the author of Yoga philosophy, did not admit this last state- 
ment, for the universe was to him a product of Prakriti. Vcdanta accepts the 
Samkhya-Patanjali view, and then reduces the dualism of Samkhya-Patanjali 
to non-dualism by regarding Prakriti as Maya, or the power of Cod the 
power to create, preserve, and dissolve the universe. 

VEDANTA For The Western World 152 

beings, throughout the universe, each of whom may directly 
realize God through His power, the power of Sphota. "This 
Sphota," says Swami Vivekananda, "has one word as its only 
possible symbol, and this is OM. And as by no possible means 
of analysis can we separate the word from the idea, this OM 
and the eternal Sphota are inseparable; and therefore it is 
out of this holiest of all holy words, the mother of all names 
and forms, the eternal OM, that the whole universe may be 
supposed to have been created. But it may be said that, al- 
though thought and word are inseparable, yet as there may 
be various word-symbols for the same thought, it is not neces- 
sary that this particular word OM should be the word repre- 
sentative of the thought out of which the universe has 
become manifested. To this objection we reply, that this OM 
is the only possible symbol which covers the whole ground, 
and there is none other like it. The Sphota is the material of 
all words, yet it is not any definite word in its fully formed 
state. That is to say, if all the^particularities which distin- 
guish one word from another be removed, then what remains 
will be the Sphota; therefore this Sphota is called the Nada- 
Brahman, the Sound-Brahman. Now, as every word-symbol 
intended to express the inexpressible Sphota will so par- 
ticularize it that it will no longer be the Sphota, that symbol 
which particularizes it the least and at the same time most 
approximately expresses its nature, will be the truest symbol 
thereof; and this is the OM, and the OM only; because these 
three letters A, U, M, pronounced in combination as OM, 
may well be the generalized symbol of all possible sounds. 
The letter A is the least differentiated of all sounds. Again, 
all articulate sounds are produced in the space within the 
mouth beginning with the root of the tongue and ending in 
the lipsthe throat sound is A, and M is the last lip sound; 
and the U exactly represents the rolling forward of the im- 
pulse which begins at the root of the tongue, continuing till 
it ends in the lips. If properly pronounced, this OM will 
represent the who'e phenomenon of sound production, and 
no other word can do this; and this, therefore, is the fittest 
symbol of the Sphota, which is the real meaning of the OM. 
And as the symbol can never be separated from the thing 
signified, the OM and the Sphota are one. And as the Sphota, 

153 ^ ^Mystic Word "O<M" 

being the finer side of the manifested universe, is nearer to 
God, and is indeed the first manifestation of Divine Wisdom, 
this OM is truly symbolic of God." 

More than this, the Yogis claim that through meditation 
one may hear this word OM vibrating through the universe. 
In Patanjali's words, the worship of God and meditation 
upon Him can be effected by repeating OM and meditating 
upon its meaning, 

The Tower of the Word 


SOME KIND OF EXCUSE will always be found by those who do 
not perform japam, yet if one will make a practice of repeat- 
ing the holy Name, the Name itself will take hold of the 

Of a surety the mind is restless, drunk with worldly at- 
tachment, and it is this attachment that drags it down. This 
is why Sri Krishna taught Arjuna non-attachment to objects 
and actions, and why he taught him the practice of devotion. 

Through the regular practice of repeating the holy Name 
the mind will gradually become tranquil. Practice discrimi- 
nation, and whenever the mind runs after sense-objects dis- 
criminate between the Real and the unreal. Know every 
sense-object to be transitory; today it is, tomorrow it is not. 
You will find that though you add together all the transitory, 
finite objects that this world can give you, you cannot find 
the Reality, you cannot find the Infinity. There is one in- 
finite existence: That is Brahman That is the Reality. All 
else is unreal. 

Impress these thoughts again and again upon the mind, 
and as the mind receives the impressions, true discrimination 
will arise. 

Once Rama gave a string of pearls to his devotee Hanu- 
man. Hanuman examined each pearl carefully, opened one 
of them with his teeth, and then threw them away. When. 

* Translated from the teachings of Swami Adbhutananda as recorded by a 
disciple. Swami Adbhutananda, or Latu Maharaj, as he was known to the 
circle of devotees of Sri Ramakrishna, came to the Master when quite young. 
He was the servant boy of a devotee of Sri Ramakrishna. He became one of 
the monastic disciples of the Master. Latu Maharaj never knew how to read 
or write. From Sri Ramakrishna he learned the art of reading the book of 
knowledge which is within every human soul. Whatever he himself taught 
later came directly from that same source-book of wisdom the knowledge of 


155 *The Tower of the Word 

Lakshmana, who had been watching him, saw this, he angrily 
exclaimed: "The value of a pearl necklace cannot be recog- 
nized by a fool!" Rama then asked Lakshmana to enquire of 
Hanuman the reason for his action, and upon being ques- 
tioned Hanuman replied: "I opened the pearl to see if the 
holy Name was there. The necklace is worthless if Rama is 
not in it." 

Always discriminate between the Real and the unreal. To 
keep the power of discrimination awake in the mind is the 
greatest exercise of tapas (austerity). He who has learned to 
discriminate can successfully overcome lust and craving. First 
of all, the mind must be swept clean of all the undesirable 
thoughts which arise, they must not be allowed to enter 
through the doors of the senses, and as they creep in, the 
power of discrimination must be brought into play; the 
lower mind must be conquered by the discriminating mind. 
Then alone will the heart be purified, and then alone will 
God be revealed. 

Until the heart and mind are consecrated to God through 
meditation, one cannot completely overcome lust and craving. 

The mind alone is the field wherein is planted the seed of 
lust. This seed is nurtured by the sense organs within and 
the sense objects without. Thus it increases and multiplies. 
The weeds that grow from it have to be uprooted, the seed 
has to be destroyed, and the holy Name of God sown in its 
place. Constant repetition of the holy Name will nurture 
the seed and cause it to bring forth much fruit. Sri Rama- 
krishna used to say: "Where there is craving there is no 
Rama, where there is Rama there is no craving." 

There is another saying of Sri Ramakrishna: "Put on the 
armor of the holy Name and overcome the enemy of lust." 
The seeds of lust and craving may be burnt by japam; for 
such is the power of the holy Name of God. The Word is 
God. The Word is the Reality. Through the practice of 
japam its magnetic atraction is felt, and as the mind becomes 
more deeply drawn into the spiritual current which flows 
toward the Real, lust, which is unreal, loses its hold and is 
swept away. 

It is also true that the power of the Word works even while 
one sleeps. He who practices japam continues to repeat the 

V ED ANT A For The Western World 156 

Name in all states of consciousness waking, dreaming, and 
dreamless sleep. Just as the body continues to breathe, so 
does the mind continue to repeat the Name even in sleep. 
Thus the aspirant is able to overcome the evil impressions 
of the subconscious mind also. 

The mind is a storehouse of lust and craving. From this 
storehouse some evil elements rise to the surface, while 
others may remain hidden, dormant, unrecognized. Now the 
more one practices spiritual disciplines, the nearer one moves 
toward the light of God, the purer one becomes in body and 
mind, the more clearly will the evil impressions of one's 
many, many past lives be revealed. The "heat" produced by 
the practice of japam will draw them out, and that same 
"heat" will destroy them. The power of the Word is supreme, 

No more will the mind be troubled by the restless waves 
of lust and craving; by the power of the Word the mind be- 
comes pure, transformed, renewed. Upon the pure mind the 
power of God descends. Unto the pure heart Reality is 



MANY AND VARIED are the forms of meditation. One form is 
that in which Brahman is likened to a boundless ocean, and 
the jiva to a fish, swimming happily about, feeling the sooth- 
ing, living presence everywhere. In another form the body is 
regarded as a vessel, and the mind as water pure as crystal 
upon which is reflected the sun of Satchidananda Existence, 
Knowledge and Bliss. Yet again Brahman may be meditated 
upon as the limitless ocean, and the jiva as a vessel sub- 
merged in it, the water of Brahman within and without 
everywhere. Again one may think of oneself as a bird soar- 
ing blissfully through the sky of Satchidananda. These and 
many other forms are known to the followers of the path of 

God is with form and without form. God in His absolute, 
formless aspect is meditated upon by the followers of the 
path of knowledge; but the devotee holds on to the name 
and form of God, and meditates upon Him with form. 
Various are the names and forms of God, which are but dif- 
ferent aspects of the one Reality. 

The guru and the Avataras are also forms of God, and the 
devotee takes one form and meditates upon that as his 
Chosen Ideal. While absorbed in meditation the devotee may 
have visions of the different forms of God. These must be 
regarded as but different aspects of the one Chosen Ideal. 
Forms are many, but the Reality is one. To emphasize this 
truth Sri Ramakrishna would give the simile of the cha- 
meleonwhich changes its color, yet remains the same. Thus 
by devotion to the Chosen Ideal the devotee soon realizes 
that God assumes many forms, and yet is also formless. 

The devotee meditates on the Holy Name and form of 
God, and the follower of the path of knowledge meditates 


VEDANTA For The Western World 158 

on the relation and identity of jiva with Brahman. But 
whichever path is followed, the one and the same state of 
spiritual consciousness is attained by each. When, by medi- 
tating on name and form one attains a depth in meditation, 
both name and form vanish; when, by meditating on the re- 
lation of the jiva and Brahman one attains a depth in medi- 
tation, relation also vanishes. There remains in both a spir- 
itual current which words cannot describe. 

Sri Rarnakrishna once said that in the depths of meditation 
there arises the consciousness of the impartite, the indivisible 
Reality. Body is forgotten, mind ceases to function there 
remains pure Consciousness. 

There is a difference between ecstasy and samadhi. In 
ecstasy the aspirant experiences bliss, he sees the play of the 
Divine; in samadhi the aspirant becomes blissful. The experi- 
encer, the experience, and the experienced become one. 

To see the light in vision during meditation is not enough, 
though it is true that such a vision or any other vision serves 
to strengthen the faith, and encourage the aspirant to go 
deeper and deeper. Only when the physical consciousness is 
gone, when the heart becomes pure, can one really know 
that there is a deeper and vaster realm beyond the realm of 
spiritual visions. 

The knowledge of the existence of this realm cannot be 
grasped by the human mind, nor can words define it. The 
grace of the Guru alone can open the gates to that blissful 
realm. One day while massaging the head of Sri Ramakrishna 
the door to that realm suddenly opened before me. What I 
saw, the eyes could not hold, what I tasted the tongue could 
not express. It was a definite experience beyond all expres- 

If you would know and enter into that kingdom, let the 
tongue tirelessly chant the name of God, let the heart and 
mind become absorbed in His meditation. Sooner or later, 
through His grace, you will surely know and enter into that 
blissful realm. 

Be absorbed in meditation. Be absorbed so that the world 
becomes annihilated, and only you exist, you and your Be- 
loved shining in your heart. As one becomes established in 
the meditative life there comes a control over the mind. 

159 ^Meditation 

Then alone can one know his own mind, how and in what 
devious ways it works. He becomes immediately aware of 
any tricks the mind would try to play. The old habits of 
hatred, jealousy, and all the passions will no longer have the 
power to raise any wave in the mind. They will gradually 
recede, and eventually disappear. 

Many changes come in one who lives the contemplative 
life. The character becomes transformed, the body also 
changes, the voice becomes sweet; he breathes differently. A 
truly meditative man can be recognized by his movements, 
his face, his eyes. He has wonderful poise, his mind is tran- 
quil. With eyes opened or with eyes closed, engaged in what- 
ever occupation, he meditates constantly and continuously. 
The current of thought flows unceasingly toward his Be- 
loved. Just as a person suffering from acute toothache is 
constantly reminded of it, so is the aspirant constantly aware 
of the living Presence. 

Do not sleep the sleep of ignorance. Keep yourself con- 
stantly awake by the practice of spiritual disciplines. With- 
out spiritual practice life is meaningless, the truth of God 
remains unknown. People quarrel over theories and dogmas 
of religion, but those who devote their lives to the attain- 
ment of the bliss of God, and know the Reality, have no 
quarrel with other faiths, nor do they antagonize them, for 
they speak the same tongue. 

IZrahman and 


THE TRUE BEING in man is ever free, ever pure, and remains 
ever untouched by good or evil. Good and evil have no abso- 
lute reality. They exist only so long as man identifies him- 
self with the ego, the false self. When the ego is completely 
annihilated, man is freed from the false knowledge of duality 
or relativityof good and evil. 

Good and evil exist only so long as man thinks himself to 
be the doer of actions. If through the grace of the Infinite 
Being he is freed from this consciousness of ego, then the 
idea of good or bad no longer exists for him. 

Merit and demerit are the effects of karma. Because of the 
sense of attachment to the false ego, man is subject to this 
law. As a man sows, so does he reap. The law of karma op- 
erates within the realm of Maya. Man, identifying himself 
with the ego, becomes bound by Maya. 

In creation and destruction, in happiness and misery, in 
success and failure, in every domain of duality is Maya's play. 
Such is her nature, and man, because of ignorance, is caught 
in the play. But he who is freed from the bondage of Maya 
is guided by the Infinite Being, and in His guidance finds 
everlasting joy, everlasting peace, everlasting blessedness. 
There no waves of duality can arise. There is only the one 
Infinite Ocean of peace and joy. 

Maya of itself has no independent existence. As Sri Rama- 
krishna has said: "The wave is of the ocean, not the ocean 
itself." Similarly Maya is of the Infinite Being, but is not the 
Infinite Being Itself. Therefore, the bondage and control of 
Maya cannot be said to be the same as the control and guid- 
ance of God. Yet true it is that the ultimate purpose of the 
play of Maya is to lead man Godward to the Infinite Re- 
ality. All will ultimately reach God. 


1 6 1 ^Brahman and 

Unattached and with perfect balance Maya plays her dual 
role. On the one hand it is she who lulls man into forgetful- 
ness of his true nature, and again it is she who awakens him 
to the consciousness of God. Within her domain are all the 
dual throng. And why? That man may overcome evil with 
good and finally transcend both. So we see that while Maya 
appears to bind, yet by this same bondage man is led toward 
freedom, albeit along a winding and tortuous pathway, for 
only after many births and much suffering does he finally 
recognize the inscrutable play of Maya and surrender himself 
to her liberating power. 

One truth is certain. Whether he wills to find God in this 
present life, or after many more lives of suffering and bond- 
age, sooner or later man mutt seek to find God with whole- 
hearted devotion. And as he seeks Him, he finds Him. 

God is the Infinite Existence. In Him there is neither east 
nor west, neither within nor without, neither above nor 
below. He permeates all spacehe is woven warp and woof 
into all things. He is immanent, all-pervadingunaffected 
by forms or boundaries. He is all and He transcends all. Sri 
Ramakrishna used to say: "Everything but the Truth of 
Brahman has been defiled through the lips of man." No 
words can express the glory of God. Sri Ramakrishna would 
often wish to reveal the truth of Brahman to his disciples 
but his lips were sealed as it were by the Divine Mother 

Brahman is Truth, and whosoever observes truthfulness 
and wills to know Truth shall surely attain it. The power to 
will is the greatest gift bestowed upon man, and nothing can 
stand against one whose will is awakened. Will and impulse 
or desire, however, must not be confused. Impulse or desire 
is a degeneration of the will. What is it that man truly wills? 
It is the attainment of Ananda, that everlasting peace, and 
this is attained only by finding the Satchidanandar-the Infi- 
nite Being, the Infinite Wisdom, and the Infinite Love. 

The true purpose of human birth is to fulfill this one, this 
only will, to realize God which is truly the motive power 
behind all other desires. Unhappy is the man who forgets 
this purpose, and loses himself in the meshes of petty desires 
and impulses. Desiring first one thing, then another and yet 

FED ANT A For The Western World 162 

again something else is but impulse, and can be likened unto 
a man, who, desiring to sink a well, digs first in one place 
and then in another, never completing one well, and never 
reaching the water. Not by such impulses and desires can 
the thirst for God be quenched. Therefore, I say unto you, 
will to attain the Truth, the Kingdom of Self. 

This Kingdom is never lost. It may lie hidden, covered 
with dirt, but it is forever within. Brahman is ever pure, ever 
free, self-luminous, and that Brahman is one's very Self. Just 
as a gold vessel may be covered with dirt, yet lose nothing of 
its true nature, so the true Self lies hidden within, and re- 
mains forever unaffected by the dirt of ignorance covering it. 

Man is ever conscious of the existence of this Self. Every 
time he says "my body/ 1 "my mind," "my intelligence/' etc., 
he unconsciously admits the existence of an "I," of a "Self." 
Because of this ignorance which clouds man's true Self, he is 
unable to manifest his real nature. Hence the necessity of 
spiritual disciplines, and the firm will to unfold this latent 

Seven ^Meditations 



GOD is. That is the primordial fact. It is in order that we may 
discover this fact for ourselves, by direct experience, that we 
exist. The final end and purpose of every human being is the 
unitive knowledge of God's being. 

What is the nature of God's being? The invocation to the 
Lord's Prayer gives us the answer. "Our Father which art in 
heaven." God is, and is ours immanent in each sentient 
being, the life of all lives, the spirit animating every soul. 
But this is not all. God is also the transcendent Creator and 
Law-Giver, the Father who loves and, because He loves, also 
educates His children. And finally, God is "in heaven." That 
is to say, He possesses a mode of existence which is incom- 
mensurable and incompatible with the mode of existence 
possessed by human beings in their natural, unspiritualized 
condition. Because He is ours and immanent, God is very 
close to us. But because He is also in heaven, most of us are 
very far from God. The saint is one who is as close to God as 
God is close to him. 

It is through prayer that men come to the unitive knowl- 
edge of God. But the life of prayer is also a life of mortifica- 
tion, of dying to self. It cannot be otherwise; for the more 
there is of self, the less there is of God. Our pride, our anx- 
iety, our lusts for power and pleasure are God-eclipsing 
things. So too is that greedy attachment to certain creatures 
which passes too often for unselfishness and should be called, 
not altruism, but alter-egoism. And hardly less God-eclipsing 
is the seemingly self-sacrificing service which we give to any 
cause or ideal that falls short of the divine. Such service is 
always idolatry, and makes it impossible for us to worship 


VEDANTA For The Western World 164 

God as we should, much less to know Him. God's kingdom 
cannot come unless we begin by making our human king- 
doms go. Not only the mad and obviously evil kingdoms, but 
also the respectable ones the kingdoms of the scribes and 
pharisees, the good citizens and pillars of society, no less than 
the kingdoms of the publicans and sinners. God's being can- 
not be known by us, if we choose to pay our attention and 
our allegiance to something else, however creditable that 
something else may seem in the eyes of the world. 


Beauty arises when the parts of a whole are related to one 
another and to the totality in a manner which we apprehend 
as orderly and significant. But the first principle of order is 
God, and God is the final, deepest meaning of all that exists. 
God, then, is manifest in the relationship which makes 
things beautiful. He resides in that lovely interval which 
harmonizes events on all the planes, where we discover 
beauty. We apprehend Him in the alternate voids and full- 
nesses of a cathedral; in the spaces that separate the salient 
features of a picture; in the living geometry of a flower, a 
sea shell, an animal; in the pauses and intervals between the 
notes of music, in their differences of tone and sonority; and 
finally, on the plane of conduct, in the love and gentleness, 
the confidence and humility, which give beauty to the re- 
lationships between human beings. 

Such then, is God's beauty, as we apprehend it in the 
sphere of created things. But it is also possible for us to ap- 
prehend it, in some measure at least, as it is in itself. The 
beatific vision of divine beauty is the knowledge, so to say, 
of Pure Interval, of harmonious relationship apart from the 
things related. A material figure of beauty-in-itself is the 
cloudless evening sky, which we find inexpressibly lovely, al- 
though it possesses no orderliness of arrangement, since there 
are no distinguishable parts to be harmonized. We find it 
beautiful because it is an emblem of the infinite Clear Light 
of the Void. To the knowledge of this Pure Interval we shall 
come only when we have learnt to mortify attachment to 
creatures, above all to ourselves. 

1 65 Seven ^Meditations 

Moral ugliness arises when self-assertion spoils the har- 
monious relationship which should exist between sentient 
beings. Analogously, aesthetic and intellectual ugliness arise 
when one part in a whole is excessive or deficient. Order is 
marred, meaning distorted and, for the right, the divine re- 
lation between things or thoughts, there is substituted a 
wrong relationa relationship that manifests symbolically, 
not the immanent and transcendent source of all beauty, but 
that chaotic disorderliness which characterizes creatures when 
they try to live independently of God. 


God is love, and there are blessed moments when even to 
unregenerate human beings it is granted to know Him as 
love. But it is only in the saints that this knowledge becomes 
secure and continuous. By those in the earlier stages of the 
spiritual life God is apprehended predominantly as law. It is 
through obedience to God the Law-Giver that we come at 
last to know God the loving Father. 

The law which we must obey, if we would know God as 
love, is itself a law of love. "Thou shalt love God with all thy 
soul, and with all thy heart, with all thy mind and with all 
thy strength. And thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." 
We cannot love God as we should, unless we love our neigh- 
bors as we should. We cannot love our neighbors as we 
should, unless we love God as we should. And, finally, we 
cannot realize God as the active, all-pervading principle of 
love, until we ourselves have learnt to love Him and our 
fellow creatures. 

Idolatry consists in loving a creature more than we love 
God. There are many kinds of idolatry, but all have one thing 
in common: namely, self-love. The presence of self-love is 
obvious in the grosser forms of sensual indulgence, or the 
pursuit of wealth and power and praise. Less manifestly, but 
none the less fatally, it is present in our inordinate affections 
for individuals, persons, places, things and institutions. And 
even in men's most heroic sacrifices to high causes and noble 
ideals, self-love has its tragic place. For when we sacrifice our- 
selves to any cause or ideal that is lower than the highest, less 

VEDANTA For The Western World 166 

than God Himself, we are merely sacrificing one part of our 
unregenerate being to another part which we and other peo- 
ple regard as more creditable. Self-love still persists, still pre- 
vents us from obeying perfectly the first of the two great 
commandments. God can be loved perfectly only by those 
who have killed out the subtlest, the most nobly sublimated 
forms of self-love. When this happens, when we love God as 
we should and therefore know God as love, the tormenting 
problem of evil ceases to be a problem, the world of time is 
seen to be an aspect of eternity, and in some inexpressible 
way, but no less really and certainly, the struggling, chaotic 
multiplicity of life is reconciled in the unity of the all- 
embracing divine charity. 


Along with love and joy, peace is one of the fruits of the 
spirit. But it is also one of the roots. In other words, peace is 
a necessary condition of spirituality, no less than an inevi- 
table result of it. In the words of St. Paul, it is peace which 
keeps the heart and rnind in the knowledge and love of God. 

Between peace the root and peace the fruit of the spirit 
there is, however, a profound difference in quality. Peace the 
root is something we all know and understand, something 
which, if we choose to make the necessary effort, we can 
achieve. If we do not achieve it, we shall never make any 
serious advance in our knowledge and love of God, we shall 
never catch more than a fleeting glimpse of that other peace 
which is the fruit of spirituality. Peace the fruit is the peace 
which passes all understanding; and it passes understanding, 
because it is the peace of God. Only those who have in some 
measure become God-like can hope to know this peace in its 
enduring fullness. Inevitably so. For, in the world of spir- 
itual realities, knowledge is always a function of being; the 
nature of what we experience is determined by what we our- 
selves are. 

In the early stages of the spiritual life we are concerned 
almost exclusively with peace the root, and with the moral 
virtues from which it springs, the vices and weaknesses which 
check its growth. Interior peace has many enemies. On the 

1 67 Seven ^Meditations 

moral plane we find, on trie one hand, anger, impatience and 
every kind of violence; and, on the other (for peace is essen- 
tially active and creative), every kind of inertia and slothful- 
ness. On the plane of feeling, the great enemies of peace are 
grief, anxiety, fear, all the formidable host of the negative 
emotions. And on the plane of the intellect we encounter 
foolish distractions and the wantonness of idle curiosity. The 
overcoming of these enemies is a most laborious and often 
painful process, requiring incessant mortification of natural 
tendencies and all-too-human habits. That is why there is, in 
this world of ours, so little interior peace among individuals 
and so little exterior peace between societies. In the words of 
the Imitation: "All men desire peace but few indeed desire 
those things which make for peace.'* 


Whole, hale, holy the three words derive from the same 
root. By etymology no less than in fact holiness is spiritual 
health, and health is wholeness, completeness, perfection. 
God's holiness is the same as His unity; and a man is holy to 
the extent to which he has become single-minded, one- 
pointed, perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect. 

Because each of us possesses only one body, we tend to 
believe that we are one being. But in reality our name is 
Legion. In our unregenerate condition we are divided be- 
ings, half-hearted and double-minded, creatures of many 
moods and multiple personalities. And not only are we di- 
vided against our unregenerate selves; we are also incom- 
plete. As well as our multitudinous soul, we possess a spirit 
that is one with the universal spirit. Potentially (for in his 
normal condition he does not know who he is) man is much 
more than the personality he takes himself to be. He cannot 
achieve his wholeness unless and until he realizes his true 
nature, discovers and liberates the spirit within his soul and 
so unites himself with God. 

Unholiness arises when we give consent to any rebellion 
or self-assertion by any part of our being against that totality 
which it is possible for us to become through union with 
God. For example, there is the unholiness of indulged sensu- 

VEDANTA For the Western World 168 

ality, of unchecked avarice, envy and anger, of the wanton- 
ness of pride and worldly ambition. Even the negative 
sensuality of ill health may constitute unholiness, if the 
mind be permitted to dwell upon the sufferings of its body 
more than is absolutely necessary or unavoidable. And on 
the plane of the intellect there is the imbecile unholiness of 
distractions, and the busy, purposeful unholiness of curiosity 
about matters concerning which we are powerless to act in 
any constructive or remedial way. 

From our natural state of incompleteness to spiritual health 
and perfection there is no magically easy short cut. The way 
to holiness is laborious and long. It lies through vigilance 
and prayer, through an unresting guard of the heart, the 
mind, the will and the tongue, and through the one-pointed 
loving atention to God, which that guard alone makes 


Graces are the free gifts of help bestowed by God upon 
each one of us, in order that we may be assisted to achieve 
our final end and purpose; namely, unitive knowledge of 
divine reality. Such helps are very seldom so extraordinary 
that we are immediately aware of their true nature as God- 
sends. In the overwhelming majority of cases they are so in- 
conspicuously woven into the texture of common life, that 
we do not know that they are graces, unless and until we 
respond to them as we ought, and so receive the material, 
moral or spiiitual benefits, which they were meant to bring 
us. If we do not respond to these ordinary graces as we ought, 
we shall receive no benefit and remain unaware of their na- 
ture or even of their very existence. Grace is always sufficient, 
provided we are ready to co-operate with it. If we fail to do 
our share, but rather choose to rely on self-will and self- 
direction, we shall not only get no help from the graces be- 
stowed upon us; we shall actually make it impossible for 
further graces to be given. When used with an obstinate 
consistency, self-will creates a private universe walled off 
impenetrably from the light of spiritual reality; and within 
these private universes the self-willed go their way, unhelped 
and unillumined, from accident to random accident, or from 

169 Seven ^Meditations 

calculated evil to calculated evil. It is of such that St. Francis 
de Sales is speaking when he says, "God did not deprive thee 
of the operation of his love, but thou didst deprive His love 
of thy co-operation. God would never have rejected thee, if 
thou hadst not rejected Him." 

To be clearly and constantly aware of the divine guidance 
is given only to those who are already far advanced in the 
life of the spirit. In its earlier stages we have to work, not by 
the direct perception of God's successive graces, but by faith 
in their existence. We have to accept as a working hypothesis 
that the events of our lives are not merely fortuitous, but 
deliberate tests of intelligence and character, specially de- 
vised occasions (if properly used) for spiritual advance. Act- 
ing upon this working hypothesis, we shall treat no occur- 
rence as intrinsically unimportant. We shall never make a 
response that is inconsiderate, or a mere automatic expres- 
sion of our self-will, but always give ourselves time, before 
acting or speaking, to consider what course of behaviour 
would seem to be most in accord with the will of God, most 
charitable, most conducive to the achievement of our final 
end. When such becomes our habitual response to events, we 
shall discover, from the nature of their effects, that some at 
least of those occurrences were divine graces in the disguise 
sometimes of trivialities, sometimes of inconveniences or 
even of pains and trials. But if we fail to act upon the work- 
ing hypothesis that grace exists, grace will in effect be non- 
existent so far as we are concerned. We shall prove by a life 
of accident at the best, or, at the worst, of downright evil, 
that God does not help human beings, unless they first per- 
mit themselves to be helped. 


Peace, love, joy these, according to St. Paul, are the three 
fruits of the spirit. They correspond very closely to the three 
essential attributes of God, as summarized in the Indian 
formula, sat, chit, ananda, being, knowledge, bliss. Peace is 
the manifestation of unified being. Love is the mode of 
divine knowledge. And bliss, the concomitant of perfection, 
is the same as joy. 

VEDANTA For The Western World 170 

Like peace, joy is not only a fruit of the spirit, but also a 
root. If we would know God, we must do everything to culti- 
vate that lower equivalent of joy, which it is within our 
power to feel and to express. 

"Sloth" is the ordinary translation of that acedia, which 
ranks among the seven deadly sins of our Western tradition. 
It is an inadequate translation; for acedia is more than sloth; 
it is also depression and self-pity, it is also that dull world- 
weariness which causes us, in Dante's words, to be "sad in the 
sweet air that rejoiceth in the sun/' To grieve, to repine, to 
feel sorry for oneself, to despair these are the manifestations 
of self-willing and of rebellion against the will of God. And 
that special and characteristic discouragement we experience 
on account of the slowness of our spiritual advance what is 
it but a symptom of wounded vanity, a tribute paid to our 
high opinion of our own merits? 

To be cheerful when circumstances are depressing, or 
when we are tempted to indulge in self-pity, is a real mortifi- 
cationa mortification all the more valuable for being so 
inconspicuous, so hard to recognize for what it is. Physical 
austerities, even the mildest of them, can hardly be practised 
without attracting other people's attention; and because they 
thus attract attention, those who practise them are often 
tempted to feel vain of their self-denial. But such mortifi- 
cations as refraining from idle talk, from wanton curiosity 
about things which do not concern us, and above all from 
depression and self-pity, can be practised without anybody 
knowing of them. Being consistently cheerful may cost us a 
far greater effort than, for example, being consistently tem- 
perate; and whereas other people will often admire us for 
refraining from physical indulgences, they will probably at- 
tribute our cheerfulness to good digestion or a native in- 
sensibility. From the roots of such secret and unadmired 
self-denials there springs the tree whose fruits are the peace 
that passes all understanding, the love of God and of all crea- 
tures for God's sake, and the joy of perfection, the bliss of 
an eternal and timeless consummation. 

Spiritual ^Maxims 


THE ONLY WAY to lasting peace is complete surrender to the 
will of God. Restlessness destroys all peace of mind. When 
the mind becomes restless one should pray earnestly to God, 
for He alone is the abode of peace. 

Constant recollection of God will bring an overflowing 

The only real purpose of human life is the search for 
Reality. To know the Reality we must meditate. Therefore, 
the spiritual aspirant should make the practice of meditation 
a regular habit. The early morning is the best time for 
spiritual practices. The sacred hours before sunrise are better 
than any other time of the day or night for the practice of 

The tribulations of the world indirectly drive the mind 
toward God. The more you are troubled and tortured in the 
world the more you will think of God, and know it for cer- 
tain that loving remembrance pf God severs all our attach- 
ments to the world. 

As long as a man remains satisfied with earthly enjoyments 
and attainments, he has not started on the spiritual path; 
and when the pangs of separation from God pierce the mind, 
the time for God-vision is at hand. 

A true devotee asks nothing of God but pure love for 
Him. Even as a child depends entirely upon its mother, so 
the devout soul depends entirely upon God. 

God is with form, and also without form; again, He is 
beyond both. He transcends all our conceptions of Him. He 
can be meditated upon in any one of His multifarious 

i One of the direct disciples of Sri Rarnakrishna, Swami Shivananda suc- 
ceeded Swami Brahmananda as head of the Ramakrishna Order. 


VEDANTA For The Western World 172 

When the mind is overcome by a feeling of monotony, one 
should resort to scriptural study, repetition of the Name of 
God, prayer, and holy company. But of all the means for 
purification and realization, meditation is the highest. Con- 
stant remembrance of God makes us "whole/' 

Kindle the fire of renunciation in your heart, dive deep in 
the ocean of His love, then alone will spiritual experiences 

When you have succeeded in enshrining God within your 
heart you will see Him everywhere. 

Everything depends upon the Grace of God even the de- 
sire for spiritual practice. Eventually His vision too comes 
as a result of His blessing. 

Dreams of holy men and holy places are very auspicious. 
One should shun all evil association by all means. 

If you sincerely adhere to your spiritual exercises with 
faith, purity and devotion, you will surely be illumined. 

Spiritual life must be lived in absolute secrecy; publicity 
hinders our attempts. To give expression to divine emotions 
is to lessen them, and it is unwholesome. The more they are 
concealed, the more they are intensified. 

Be ever prayerful, then evil thoughts, even if they come 
to the mind, cannot linger long. A prayerful man is ever 

The power of a divine Incarnation is infinite. Unflinching 
reliance on the Chosen Ideal is the religion of the devotee. 
For him the veil of ignorance is quickly removed. 

Liberation in life, as contrasted with liberation after death, 
is like standing on the threshold of a room, with one foot 
placed inside and the other outside. In this state everything 
of the inner and the outer world is visible, while in the latter 
state one enters the inner world and sees nothing of the outer 
world; the outward consciousness is totally eliminated from 
the mind. 

To think of a divine form within the heart is one kind of 
meditation. Imagine that the form is very gracious and is 
looking at you with deep affection and kindness. Such 
thoughts will fill the soul with love, hope and peace, and you 
will be blessed. 

It is the nature of the mind to become restless and un- 

1 73 Spiritual ^Maxims 

steady at times. But we must not allow ourselves to be un- 
settled or upset by this. When the mind is restrained, such 
occasional reactions will strengthen rather than weaken it. 

Patient and regular practice is the whole secret of spiritual 
realization. Do not be in a hurry in spiritual life. Do your 
utmost, and leave the rest to God. 

Past tendencies will be uprooted and obliterated by the 
constant remembrance of God, and the heart will be filled 
with peace. The mind is stilled by His grace alone. 

The building of a pure life and character is the sole con- 
cern of the spiritual aspirant. It is the primary object of his 
life; everything else is secondary. 

The more you call upon God the nearer will you be to 
Him. Overflowing devotion is the only condition of His 

A pure and spotless life is a source of real welfare to the 
world. When such a life is actually lived, there is no need 
for oral teaching. Example is more potent than precepts. 

The Lord gives us difficulties only to test and strengthen 
our faith. Look to Him for help and guidance. Love all 
equally. Do not wound the feelings of others. 

It is difficult to turn the course of our mind towards God 
after it has been steeped in worldliness for so long, but if you 
are resolute never to abstain from thinking of Him, it will 
change. The Lord is most merciful. He rejects no prayer. Be 
regular and sincere in your daily meditation, and never al- 
low despair to overwhelm your mind. 


(Control of the Subconscious ZMind 


WHAT is THE SUBCONSCIOUS MIND? We all know something 
about the nature of the conscious mind. We think, We feel, 
we act, and we are conscious of our thoughts, feelings, and 
actions. And whatever we think and feel and do, in short, all 
our experiences, are stored in the subconscious mind. You 
can remember certain things you did. Why can you remem- 
ber? Because what you did remained imbedded in the mind. 
Every thought, every feeling, every action leaves its impres- 
sion on the mind. Nothing is lost. The sum-total of those 
impressions is what we may call the character of an indi- 
vidual. You are the result of what you have thought, felt and 
done. In turn, your accumulated tendencies determine and 
control your conscious thoughts, feelings, and actions. Your 
reactions to this objective universe are governed by your in- 
dividual character, which is the deposit of your past re- 
actions. That is why individuals vary in their reactions to 
experience. To take a crude illustration: nowadays the papers 
carry headlines reporting many thousands of people killed. 
To some minds, these headlines bring a reaction of joy; to 
other minds, a reaction of pain and suffering. The reaction 
varies according to the character of the individual, which has 
been formed by past thoughts, feelings, and actions, which 
remain imbedded in the mind. 

But what about free-will? Can we not choose the way we 
will react to given conditions and circumstances? Yes, we can 
choose; but the will is not absolutely free will. The will, by 
which I make choices, behaves in accordance with my char- 
acter, that sum-total of all my past deeds, thoughts, and feel- 
ings. And not alone of this present life. The subconscious 
mind carries the record of many, many past lives. 

So then, we are* what we have made ourselves, not in this 


1 75 Control of the Subconscious 

one life, but in many, many past lives. We have this sub- 
conscious mind, carrying our whole record, past and present, 
defining the character and the tendencies we are born with, 
which in turn determine the way we react to present condi- 
tions. The subconscious, that part of the mind below the 
level of the conscious or surface mind, is a very influential 
factor in our present life. 

We all realize the power of the influence exerted by the 
subconscious mind. Through experience, a certain growth 
takes place in the ideas held by the conscious mind. You 
grow a sense of good and evil. Certain new ideals and prin- 
ciples come into your conscious mind. You realize that you 
must live according to these new ideals and principles. In 
other words, you begin to know a better way of life. But you 
find yourself helpless to live in that better way. This is an 
experience everyone of us has had. We know, but we cannot 
do. A thief, for example, wants to reform himself; he does 
not wish to steal any more. Then he goes to a place where he 
sees that it would be very easy to steal without being caught. 
He knows better, but he steals. So with any other bad habit. 
We have become slaves to our own subconscious minds, to 
our own characters. 

Is there no way out of this? Yes, there is. I have already 
pointed out that the so-called free-will is also controlled by 
your character, so that the term "free-will" is really a mis- 
nomer. There is, however, a certain freedom, which is not 
of the will or of the mind or of the intellect, but it is a free- 
dom of the spirit within us which says, "I cannot will, yet I 
must will." Although our mind says, and our character says, 
"I cannot do it," the spirit says, "You must do it." That is 
the freedom left in every one of us, and through that free- 
dom of the Spirit each one of us may find salvation. 

We recognize that there is something greater, something 
higher we have to achieve. Because of our habits and tenden- 
cies built up by past actions, we find it almost impossible 
but not completely impossible. If it were completely impos- 
sible, then life would not be worth living for any of us. But, 
because of that freedom of the Spirit, though we may fail 
many times, still we struggle, and this struggle is life. And, 

VEDANTA For The Western World 176 

whether we know it or not, the real struggle is to overcome 
the subconscious mind, to be free again. 

Now, how are we to achieve that? The psychology of reli- 
gion goes to the root of this. In my opinion, the only way to 
overcome the subconscious mind is to follow the psychology 
of religion. Just to analyze yourself and to recognize this 
slavery does not help you. You have to root out completely 
your impressions and your character and that is the psy- 
chology of religion. What does Saint Paul say? "Be ye trans- 
formed by the renewal of your own mind." This complete 
transformation, this complete renewal of the mind is what is 
taught in the psychology of religion. The very first aphorism 
in Patanjali's Yoga is: Yoga-schittavritti nirodha. This de- 
fines Yoga as complete control of the modifications of the 
mind. The word "modifications" means the thoughts and 
contents of the mind. A complete overhauling of the mind. 
Emptying the mind of all its contents that is Yogal 

Now, before we can learn the methods and means of doing 
this, the question arises: "What do we achieve by this com- 
plete emptying and renewal of the mind?" Patanjali says that 
by this renewal of the mind you realize your true being, you 
live in your kingdom. In the words of the Christian Bible, 
you realize the Kingdom of God within. 

Simply to try to overcome your past and be good in the 
future does not work. It cannot work, because, however you 
may try, your tendencies are left. The only way is to change 
your whole mind completely wipe out the whole past, the 
whole content of consciousness. That is the only way. And 
what is the effect when you do that? What happens then? In 
the words of Vedanta philosophy, you realize the Kingdom 
of Self. In the words of the Christian Bible, you realize the 
Kingdom of Heaven which is within you. Now, what is this 
true nature that we realize? What is this Kingdom of God? 
It is said to be perfection. Christ says: "Be ye perfect, even as 
the Father in heaven is perfect." This perfection is to be 
achieved. And it is not a relative perfection. The theologians 
interpret this perfection which Christ speaks of as a relative 
perfection toward which we grow eternally, but never fully 
achieve. Christ did not mean that. He said definitely, "Be 
ye perfect," Not relatively perfect. Relative perfection is im- 

1 77 Control of the Subconscious <Mind 

perfection. Perfection, to be perfection, must be an absolute 
perfection, nothing less. And this perfection is to be achieved, 
attained, as we empty ourselves of all the contents of 

The mind is like a lake of dirty water, lashed into waves. 
The reflection of the sun in that lake is not clear. But make 
the water of the lake clear and calm, and there is a perfect 
reflection of the sun. The sun, the light of God, shines within 
each of us, shines on the lake of the mind, but because of 
the imperfections of that mind, the light is imperfectly 

Now what are those imperfections? They are the Sams- 
haras, or the impressions that we have created, which, in 
turn, create thoughts in us that lash the mind into waves, so 
that the sun within us, the light of God, cannot be properly 
reflected, and we are not even conscious of that sun within. 
But the moment you free yourself you purify yourself of all 
those tendencies you have carried over from the past. The 
moment you attain to that tranquillity of mind that Christ 
calls purity of heart, God can be seen. "Blessed are the pure 
in heart, for they shall see God." And not until we have seen 
God, not until we have realized pure consciousness, can we 
say that the subconscious mind has been overcome. 

Now, what is really meant by those phrases, "making the 
mind tranquil" and "freeing the mind of all its content of 
thought and consciousness"? The Brahman or God is said to 
be eternally existent. He is. Then He is Chit: consciousness 
itself; and He is Ananda: happiness, or love, itself. That 
Brahman, that God, is in some way reflected in our minds. 
You are always carrying God with you and within you, every 
moment of your life. This Sat, this am, or Existence, is re- 
flected in every one of us by the knowledge: / am, 1 exist. We 
are all conscious of that existence; none of us can imagine 
non-existence. We must exist even to try to think of our- 
selves as not existing. We exist then, and we have knowledge 
of that existence; but this knowledge embraces only the con- 
tents of our minds, not of Reality, that which is. There is only 
a partial reflection. Only when we can free ourselves from 
this content of consciousness can we become aware of pure 
consciousness, that is, God, the Infinite Consciousness. 

FED ANT A For The Western World 178 

Again, we all feel. What is it we wish to feel? We wish to 
feel love, we wish to feel happiness. These are the two 
strong desires that exist in us, the desire for love and happi- 
ness. And that also is a reflection; but, when we free our- 
selves from the waves that arise in the mind and go to the 
bottom of it, to that pure consciousness, then we realize the 
fulfilment of the desire for love and happiness, which is 
infinite love and infinite happinessl 

It seems so easy to say, "Free yourself from the contents 
of consciousness and be pure in heart, and you will reach 
God." But, owing to our different states of consciousness, we 
find that it is quite impossible to reach freedom, to reach 
God. In our waking state of consciousness, with our physical 
senses, with our human minds which can only become con- 
scious of objects and things, we cannot reach that pure 
consciousness, however we may try. Then we go to sleep, 
we dream. There again, in the sleep of dreams, we cannot 
realize that pure consciousness. Then we go into deep sleep, 
we become unconscious; but, although we seem to be freed 
of the content of consciousness, it is only because there is a 
veil of darkness covering our consciousness. We do not 
realize pure consciousness. So long as we live and move 
within these three states of consciousness, it is not possible 
to reach the realization of pure consciousness. We cannot see 
God, cannot realize God, within the province of these three 
states of consciousness that are known to us. 

In order to free ourselves from the contents of conscious- 
ness we must reach a state beyond these three states of con- 
sciousness. This state is called in the Upanishads Turiya, the 
Fourth. And it is possible to reach that Fourth State while 
living on earth. In the Fourth State of pure consciousness 
you lose the contents of consciousness, you are freed from 
your own character and from all your past, and you become 
one with infinite and pure consciousness. That is what is 
meant in the psychology of religion when we are taught to 
become pure in heart that we may see God, to empty our- 
selves of all our past impressions and live in the Kingdom of 
the Atman. 

But how is that to be achieved? As the goal is made very 
plain, so also the means to attain it are made very clear and 

1 79 Control of the Subconscious 

simple. It is done by uniting our minds with pure conscious- 
ness by the practice of Dhyana or constant meditation, a flow 
of meditation, when in the mind there is nothing but God. 
That is the method, and it develops with practice. It takes 
practice to grow into that stage where there is a constant 
flow of thought towards pure consciousness. 

Through ignorance many teachers have taught that the 
mind must be made blank in meditation. They think that, 
since the mind must be made empty of all objects of con- 
sciousness, if they can become unconscious and thus make 
the mind a blank, they will attain Samadhi, that state of 
transcendental consciousness. They do not stop to consider 
that, when we go into deep sleep, we are unconscious and 
there is no content of consciousness in the mind, and yet we 
do not attain Samadhi. What is the nature of Samadhi, and 
what is the difference between it and deep sleep or becoming 
unconscious? A fool goes to sleep and he comes out still a 
fool; but, if even a fool should go into Samadhi, he would 
come out a wise man, an illumined soul. That is the differ- 

Likewise, in your meditation, if you try to make the mind 
a blank, try not to think of anything at all, what happens? 
A fool you went in, or tried to go in; the same fool you 
come out even a worse fool, for you become lazy, what we 
call Tamasic. This laziness is not meditation. Meditation 
requires a great, strenuous effort to concentrate the mind 
definitely upon pure consciousness, upon God. It does not 
matter just what the conception, the ideal of the Godhead, 
may be. But there must be a positive something to concen- 
trate upon. We have to raise one strong wave of thought to 
the exclusion of the rest. That is the right practice. Never 
try to make your mind blank then you will remain a blank. 
But think of God, concentrate upon some conception of God, 
and you will become God! 

This is what the Hindu means by meditation, a constant 
flow of thought toward that one ideal. In other words, you 
walk with God, you sleep with God, you eat with God, you 
live with God. Struggle to maintain that constant flow of the 
mind toward God. When the mind is constantly united with 
God, when it is established in the constant remembrance of 

VEDANTA For The Western World 180 

God, you have achieved that stage of meditation called 
Dhruba Smriti. To reach that stage you must acquire a cer- 
tain purity of the mind by the control of the outgoing senses. 
You have to practice bringing the senses back from sense 
objects, so that your attention may be fastened upon God. 

Suppose you had the problem of cleaning a dirty ink 
bottle that is made fast to the table. You can't take it up 
and empty the ink out. So what do you do? You pour clean 
water in and the ink and dirt spill out. And you keep on 
pouring in the clean water until all the ink and dirt have 
been washed out and the bottle contains nothing but clear 
water. So in the same way, it is not possible to empty the 
mind by throwing out the contents of consciousness and 
making the mind blank; but what you can do is to keep on 
pouring the clear water of the thought of God into your 
mind until the dirt spills out. That is the experience of 
everyone in the beginning. At first you find yourself worse 
in character than you ever thought you were. Such horrible 
thoughts and distractions arise when you try to meditate, 
that you say, "Surely I was not as wicked as that before. Why 
should such wicked thoughts come into my mind just now 
when I try to meditate?*' That is a universal experience. In 
the beginning, it seems as if greater passions arise, because, 
as you pour in the clear water, the dirty ink flows out. Your 
whole subconscious mind is disturbed. Just as in a lake with 
a layer of mud at the bottom, if you stir up that mud, the 
whole lake becomes muddy for some time. We all pass 
through that stage of muddy water, muddy character. It 
quite often happens that, when a person starts to lead a spir- 
itual life, his character apparently grows worse instead of 
better. All the worst things come to the surface. That is in- 
evitable. Let them come up and then get rid of them. With 
patience and perseverance we have to go on pouring in that 
clear water of God. Distractions evil thoughts, wicked de- 
sireswill arise in your mind. Struggle! Struggle to bring 
back the thought of God into the mind again and again. 
Dhruba smriti: practice constant recollection. 

When Arjuna learned of this ideal, he said to his teacher, 
Sri Krishna, "Yes, what you say seems all right, but I con- 
sider this control of the mind more difficult than the control 

1 8 1 Control of the Subconscious Mind 

of the elements." Then Sri Krishna replies, "Yes, I know it 
is difficult, but it is not impossible; through practice and 
struggle it becomes easy." You do not achieve it in a moment,, 
nor in a day; but keep your ideal high, shoot high, aim high. 
You will fail many timesit doesn't matter get up again, 
struggle. That is lifel If there is no struggle in life, if life 
goes on smoothly, either you are an illumined soul, which 
you are not, or you are an unawakened soul. But you are at 
neither end of the path. You are midway on the path. And 
there life is struggle, struggle is life! My Master used to say, 
"Do or die!" Keep that in mind. Struggleand you are sure 
to overcome, 

Thoughts by a Stream 


these are some of the qualities you hope never to forget, as 
you sit beside Dana stream. If only at this instant you could 
see the meaning of this small river, the channel of your own 
life might ever after be less choked, more open, less inhib- 
ited, more glad. For we are glad when fixations have been 
removed, and life itself has its way through us without the 
usual timidities. Then why not begin to order all your in- 
terests, activities, pleasures and reveries in unreluctant ac- 
cord with it? 

You see right now, at least you see a little, that the secret 
of this mountain stream's vitality is the secret we are all 
meant to live up to and enjoy. Your life, too, is a water- 
course. What feeds it comes from a high glacier out of sight 
behind that topmost mountain peak. You did not produce 
the thoughts, the drives, the energies, even the motivations 
that impel you. They all had their source higher upstream. 

Perhaps this beauty is "an expression of the spiritual es- 
sence of the world," urging you even at this instant to be 
aware and to feel at home. That lupine waving on the oppo- 
site green bank can any trout's spotted skin be lovelier? The 
pines, incessantly drawing power from the air and sun and 
soil power turned to starch and sugar that feed the world- 
are never thanked. Only God has the glory. Their creative 
patience shames you. But you need not take much time out 
to be ashamed. These little eddies that seem to go in exactly 
the opposite direction to the main movement of the stream 
you could go off your head just worrying about such conflicts, 
such denials of the current of life. It's better simply to raise 
one's eyes to where the bubbles indicate great vitality, as 
wave after wave runs up against a boulder, then around, then 


183 Thoughts by a Stream 

down toward the center of the stream. Even the color on the 
bottom, the russet, the green, the grey, the iridescent: it is all 
a reflection of a glory that only the single-minded can grasp. 

As for the white ever-changing radiance formed anew each 
instant of time what is that but the light of the eternal 
broken into infinitesimal but infinitely many fragments of 
beauty? The rock at your feet keeps its special long-drawn- 
out tempo. The ant crawling across your shoe keeps his own 
short rhythm. This body, through which you are now trying 
to respond, marches to quite a different beat. The conscious- 
ness that you ignorantly say is cooped up within the bonebox 
called your skull moves to a still different cadence. The main 
thing is the music to which each in its own way keeps in 

If you could enter into that music, if you could become a 
part of it, just give yourself to it utterly, then your little 
hour down on the jostling street would be as cool and satisfy- 
ing as this living mountain water is to that doe over there, 
whose nose, dipped into a pool, thrills with a fresh sense of 

In that perspective, within this frame of reference, you sit 
here on a rock under the sun, sadly realizing that never again 
will you see precisely that bubble wandering downstream, 
past that lupine that beckons to it. Never will there be just 
this unique combination of movement, consciousness and 
time. But why be so troubled by this inescapable fact? 
"Time's arrow never turns back": thank God for that. 
Kagawa, we are told, rarely talks or thinks about the past. 
He lives in the future and the moment now. While in prison, 
Gandhi wrote: "Sing with thy every breath the praise of 
God." This trout-stream, Dana Creek, will always be telling 
you: "Live as I do for you can. Live in this instant now.' 1 




THE FIRST TIME that I can remember going to church was 
when I was about fifteen. My parents never having been in 
any way religious, nor having attempted except for an iso- 
lated instance, to teach me anything of religion, it was left 
for a slightly older woman friend to suggest that I should at 
least go and see what church was like, and for that purpose 
to take me to a Sunday morning Church of England service. 
I was, I remember, uncomfortable and embarrassed over my 
ignorance of church etiquette, and I remember her telling 
me: "When you first sit down, you have to kneel and say a 
little silent prayer/' Now the only prayers that I knew were 
the Lord's Prayer, learned at school, and one that my mother, 
on the isolated instance that I have mentioned, had taught 
me. When I was about six and had been guilty of some 
wrongdoing, probably telling a lie, she had come to my bed- 
side, talked to me gravely on my misbehavior, and then had 
said: "And now you must say a little prayer, which I am go- 
ing to teach you." The prayer was as follows: "Please God, 
make me a good boy. Teach me always to tell the truth and 
to do what is right. God bless Mother, Father, Brother and 
everyone. For Jesus Christ's sake. Amen." Having learned it, 
it soon became a nightly habit, which persisted until after I 
was grown. That was the prayer that I silently voiced that 
morning in Church, and whenever I have been to church 
since, I have wondered whether all the other people, in those 
first moments on their knees, were not, in all probability, 
saving something just as childish and habitual. 

The phrase "say a little prayer," used both by my mother 
and by the friend who took me to church, is an odd one, 
because I doubt whether anyone who truly believed in or 
understood the function or mechanism of prayer could ever 

1 85 Trayer 

use it, even to a child. To a poet, no poem can be a ''little 
poem"; nor, if he wanted his child to value poetry, could he 
speak of one to him as such; it is like "a piece of poetry" 
a phrase no poet would ever dream of employing. You can- 
not belittle, even verbally, what is holiest to you. There is 
poetry, and there is prayer; a little poem is a jingle, and a 
little prayer is what? Perhaps only a jingle, also. 

Yet there can be merit in jingles, so long as you do not 
take them for poetry, obscuring your vision of the highest, 
and the same is true, perhaps, of "little prayers." It was true, 
I think, of mine, giving it some merit when, in later years, 
needing something, some leaven, perhaps, in the adolescent 
dough of cynical materialism, I would find myself repeating 
it as the only prayer I knew. I tried, even, to mean it, to feel 
and think it instead of repeating it mechanically; really ask- 
ing God to make me a good boy, and wanting to be a good 
boy, even though I did not ask myself what God was, or 
what was meant by His blessing people, and was irked by the 
jolting of the old, familiar rhythm, caused by the necessity 
of omitting Father from the last sentence, after he had died. 
The main virtue, as it seems to me, of my "little prayer," is 
that it asked for nothing, except goodness, and in that at 
least approximated to the dictum about true prayer of Meis- 
ter Eckhart when he said: "When I pray for something, I do 
not pray; when I pray for nothing, I really pray. To pray for 
anything except God might be called idolatry or injustice." 
The habit of praying for things was never taught me, al- 
though I suppose I must have done it now and then as a 
seemingly logical deduction from the teaching that God was 
all-powerful, but I was most probably speedily discouraged 
by lack of result. In any case, I have little memory of it, al- 
though it is still, I imagine, what prayer (a different thing, 
by the way, from "saying one's prayers") means to most 

In the Journal of the Goncourts, the following is quoted 
as a prayer of an old man of their acquaintance: "O Lord, 
let the water I pass be less cloudy, let the little flies not sting 
me, let me live long enough to pile up another hundred 
thousand francs, let the Emperor not be overthrown so that 
my government securities may rise, and let the rise in Anzin 

VEDANTA For rhe Western World 186 

Coal shares be maintained." His housekeeper had orders to 
read this aloud to him every night, he repeating it with 
hands palm to palm. "Grotesque," comments the diarist. 
"Sinister! Wouldn't anybody say? And at bottom, what is it 
but prayer, naked and unashamed?" 

Yes, it is prayer, as it is normally conceived petitionary 
prayer naked and unashamed. It is even in essence the same 
kind of prayer that, in moments of agony or extremity, can 
rise to such urgency that it gets itself answered. We have 
lately been reading in the magazines, stories of men rescued 
from rafts in the Pacific, who are "not ashamed to admit" 
that they prayed for deliverance and, receiving it, have been 
converted to or confirmed in a belief in God, Whom, they 
swear, they will never more forget, just as they could never 
forget a pal who came to their help in a desperate moment. 
God, from now on, is their Pal, or their Co-Pilot. 

It is easy to smile at such declarations, and easy, too, to be 
saddened by them. There can be value in such experiences 
as there is value in any experience that teaches man to look 
above and beyond his previous conception of himself; and 
there is danger, too, as Aldous Huxley and Gerald Heard 
have pointed out, in mistaking the source of such interven- 
tion, and in confusing either a passionate and intense exercise 
of human will, or an unconscious employment of latent psy- 
chical rather than spiritual powers, with divine intervention. 
Indeed, all petitionary prayer must involve the same danger, 
which is perhaps why it has been so heavily discouraged by 
the mystics. As Aldous Huxley wrote in a previous article in 
these pages: * "The practical teaching of Indian and Christian 
mystics alike is identical in such matters as ... renunciation 
of petitionary prayer in favor of simple abandonment to the 
will of God." There seems to me, however, a danger of mis- 
apprehension lurking in this last phrase, suggesting as it does 
the passive attitude of "Christian Resignation," when what 
is needed surely is an active and unceasing longing and strug- 
gle to learn what the will of God is, and indeed what God, 
Himself, is. 

Petitionary prayer, dictated by human needs, even if not 
consciously directed by human will, though it may produce 

and Time, p. 103. 

1 87 Trayer 

results, does so at best through a simple and unreasoning be- 
lief in an uncomprehended power, the same kind of belief 
which has occasioned many "faith cures." These faith cures 
have frequently been assumed to be similar to, if not iden- 
tical with, the healings of Christian Science, those healings 
which, just as the miracles of Christ have obscured the tenets 
of Christianity, have done so much harm to the teachings of 
Christian Science, reducing it for so many observers from a 
religion to a system of spells and mumbo-jumbo in which 
headaches, cancer and poverty are made to disappear by the 
repetition of such phrases as "God Is Love." 

It is interesting in this connection to read what Mrs. Eddy, 
the founder of Christian Science, herself said of such faith 
cures, admitting that they were sometimes more speedy than 
healings in Christian Science. "Faith," she wrote, "is belief, 
and not understanding, and it is easier to believe than to 
understand Spiritual Truth. . . . Belief is a virtual blindness 
when it admits Truth without understanding it. Blind belief 
cannot say with the apostle 'I know whom I have believed/ " 
And in another place, "The common custom of praying for 
the recovery of the sick finds help in blind belief, whereas 
help should come from the enlightened understanding." It 
is for this reason that Scientists will seldom agree to help 
anyone who does not voluntarily and of himself come for 
assistance, and will not give that assistance without some 
instruction in the principles of the religion. Healing without 
understanding, without knowledge of who and what heals, 
and how, is as dangerous as the answered prayers of despera- 
tion and extremity, and in exactly the same way. The prac- 
tice of petitionary prayer at all, in fact, is as foreign to Chris- 
tian Science as it is to any of the "higher religions" of which 
Aldous Huxley speaks in the article referred to. "God," says 
Mrs. Eddy, "is not influenced by man." And again: "In order 
to pray aright, we must . . . close the lips and silence the 
material senses." 

Among other definitions, God, in Christian Science, is ex- 
plained as "Principle," and in the chapter on "Prayer," on 
the third page of the text-book, the author asks: "Who would 
stand before a blackboard, and pray the principle of math- 
ematics to solve the problem? . . . Shall we ask the divine 

VEDANTA For The Western World 188 

Principle of all goodness to do His own work?" Prayer, then, 
it would seem, is learning rather than asking; a means of 
learning and affirming the divine nature, through the under- 
standing of which our human problems will themselves be 
solved, arising as they do only from a misunderstanding of 
our existence as a part of God* 


From a 



"DELICATE/* "DELICACY' 'the words are of constant occur- 
rence in the writings of Christian mystics. So too among the 
Zen masters. What an insistence on un-violence, on non- 
emphasis, on the all but invisible knife-edge that must be so 
lightly trodden if one is to reach the goal! "Try not to seek 
after the true" (that would be to make the fatal claim that 
you knew in advance what it was); "only cease to cherish 
opinions." More subtly, "Do not pursue the outer entangle- 
ments, and do not dwell in the inner void; be serene in the 
oneness of things." Again, "The Sravaka fails to perceive that 
Mind in itself knows no stages, no causation, no imagination. 
Disciplining himself in the cause, he has attained the result 
and abides in the samadhi of Emptiness itself for ever so 
many ages. But however enlightened in this way, the Sravaka 
is not at all on the right track. From the point of view of the 
Bodhisattva, this is like suffering the torture of hell. The 
Sravaka has buried himself in emptiness and does not know 
how to get out of his quiet contemplation; for he has no in- 
sight into the Buddha-nature itself." In other words, for the 
fully enlightened person, nirvana and samsara are one. God 
is perceived as being in creatures and creatures in God. But 
if, as an average sensual man or woman, you start with this 
belief and go about "leading a well-rounded life," like a good 
liberal churchman, you will remain unenlightened and un- 
delivered. To come to the realization that God is in creatures 
and creatures in God, you must begin by behaving as though 
they were different, as though nirvana were something other 

l These passages were originally included in the manuscript of "Time Must 
Have a Stop," but they do not appear in the published version of the novel. 

VEDANTA For The Western World 190 

than samsara. But remember that this als ob dualism must 
be acted upon with an artist's tact as though you were play- 
ing Mozart or painting a water colour. Otherwise, like the 
earnest but ever-simplifying Sravaka, you'll get stuck in an 
emptiness that isn't ultimate, an emptiness subtly different 
from the genuine unmanifested principle of all being. No 
wonder if, out of the many who are called, so few in any 
given life are ever chosen. 


'Tower/' said Lord Acton, ''always corrupts. Absolute 
power corrupts absolutely. All great men are bad." And he 
might have added, "All great nations, all great classes, all 
great religious or professional organizations are bad" bad in 
exact proportion as they are pov/erful. 

The first and ever-present problem of social life is power. 
For power makes devils of those who possess it; power is in- 
satiable; power is aggressive and, by its very nature, intol- 
erant of rival power therefore intrinsically bellicose, cruel, 

Politically, power can be kept in check by a system of 
checks and balances the parliamentary system, the American 

Economically, it can be limited by the wide distribution 
of ownership in the means of production, permitting indi- 
viduals and groups to live in independence of centralized 
political or industrial authority. 

Or else there can be a purely social sanction, in the form 
of a generally accepted convention that power is undesirable, 
that ambition is in bad taste, and the social climber a vulgar 
and dangerous departure from the norm. 

But political checks and balances can work only in a stable 
society, and in times of peace. Widely distributed ownership 
of the means of production is incompatible with the kind of 
industrial and financial system we now possess. The social 
conventions deploying ambition and the will to power are, 
in actual fact, not found except among certain small "back- 
ward" communities. For our part, we admire the manifesta- 

1 9 1 From a 3^ot^ ibook 

tions of power that is, when we are not the victims of power. 
After the war, of course, the concentration of power will be- 
come even greater and its manifestations even more ruthless 
than in the immediate past. Absolute chaos and destruction 
cannot be dealt with except by absolute power. And all 
history is there to show that absolute power corrupts abso- 

In the last analysis there is no way out, except the way in- 
dicated at the close of the Lord's Prayer. "For thine is the 
kingdom and the power and glory." The results of regarding 
these things as ours constitute the evil from which, in the 
preceding clause, we have begged to be delivered. The prin- 
ciple can be enunciated in eleven words; but to translate it 
into action requires from everybody unsleeping thoughtful- 
ness and heroic self-abnegation. In other words, any general 
solution to the problem of power is indefinitely remote. 


"Little things done in a spirit of fervent love are infinitely 
more precious than much greater things done with less love." 

4 'Some people measure the worth of good actions only by 
their natural qualities or their difficulty. The dignity or dif- 
ficulty of a good action certainly affects what is called its 
accidental worth, but all essential worth comes only from 
the love of God." 

And note two further points. First, paradoxically enough, 
difficult works are often easier to accomplish than trifling 
ones. Most people behave well in the occasional crises of life, 
badly or indifferently in the inter periods of humdrum rou- 
tine. But if, at ordinary times, we chose to behave only a 
quarter as well as we do in times of crisis, most of the crises 
(being strictly home-made, a product of innumerable small, 
customary omissions of good and commissions of evil) would 
never arise. 

Second, works of essential worth tend to produce good 
consequences. Desirable social and personal conditions are 
the by-products of actions performed, not for the sake of cre- 
ating such conditions, but for the love of God. 

VEDANTA For The Western World 192 


To complain, after listening to fifteen seconds of Rosen- 
krantz and Guildenstern, that Hamlet makes no sense, makes 
no sense. And yet we do just this in regard to the universe 
and human life do just this and call it realism. 

Mozart was sometimes aware in one instant of a symphony 
that it would take an hour to play. How? By ceasing to be 
the phenomenal Long Body known to the world as "Mozart" 
and becoming a timeless awareness. This awareness was of a 
particular musical duration perceived and comprehended as 
a point. The very similar mystical intuition is, among other 
things, a knowledge of cosmic duration perceived and com- 
prehended in the same timeless way. And when not I, but 
the eternal Not-I in me, achieves this punctiform awareness 
of duration as a whole, man's life and the universe at large 
are understood as making sense, even though my poor old 
Long Body sees nothing more of the play than those fifteen 
seconds of Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern. 




EVERY GREAT TEACHER, every scripture has impressed upon us 
again and again the necessity of belief. What is the problem 
of belief? What must we believe? Whom shall we believe 
and why? 

We are repeatedly told that "whoso believeth shall never 
thirstshall have everlasting life." We read these words in 
the scriptures, we hear them from spiritual teachers, we re- 
peat them over and over, we try to meditate upon their 
meaning, yet still there remains for many of us that cloud of 
doubt, that cloud of incomprehension, that cloud of unbelief. 

Is it that we intellectually grasp the significance of the 
words, but that the feeling of their reality and of their attain- 
ability and of their present immediate practicability seem so 
lifeless to our world-trained senses and our out-going desires 
and our physical fixated minds and our educated ignorances? 

We live and are apparently controlled by the miscon- 
ception, the inherited belief of many centuries, that the 
Spiritual world is a world of illusion. The mass mind has 
accepted the physical, outer, apparent world as the reality, 
and the spiritual inner real world as the illusion. Hence 
comes our unbelief. We instinctively refuse the Truth. Our 
feelings are attached to the illusions of ignorance. 

These shackles must be broken. This veil must be re- 
moved. This can be done by creating the right feeling toward 
God, the right feeling toward the inner world, the right feel- 
ing toward the promises of the scriptures and the spiritual 
teachers. In short, the right feeling toward the Self. The 
Upanishads tell us: "With the thought 'why do I fear' disap- 
pears all fear, for fear comes of duality." In the same way it 
would seem that by questioning "why do I disbelieve," by 


VEDANTA For The Western World 194 

realizing the intensity of our ignorance, this unbelief is 
gradually lessened, and finally it disappears. 

Through discrimination, we no longer ignore the funda- 
mental Truth, the Supreme Principle of existence, of life, 
bliss and knowledge, of Self, which lies hidden within the 
world-heart of each and every one of us, and which is attain- 
able and to be known even in this very life. This attainment 
may be experienced by all who have a living faith in God, 
in the spiritual teacher, in the scriptures, and a living faith 
in the permanently unblemishable purity of one's own soul, 
concealed though that purity is, temporarily, by the mask of 

It is then only, through the grace of the Lord, the grace of 
the Guru, and the grace of the individual mind or Self, that 
the variety of aspects, the multiples of the One are realized 
to be but different aspects of the same Substance, the One 
unchanging principle of Light, of Consciousness, of Bliss. 

The Self in one is the Self in all; the Lord in one is the 
Lord in all; the Substance in one is the Substance in all. We 
have to seek to find the shadowless light, the fiickerless light, 
the silent light of eternity. And by this light we shall con- 
sciously realize that the light, the lighted and the lighter 
the seen, the see/ and the sight the hearer, the heard, and 
the word are One, have always been One, and always will be 
One. The omnipresent light of Consciousness is the omni- 
present presence of God, the source of all. 

May we nourish, cultivate, and intensify our belief in the 
Word, and by so doing may we conquer our racial, inherited 
and acquired beliefs. May we realize God here and now. May 
we seek Him whole-heartedly. May He teach us to believe in 
His holy name, the true Self. May we consciously dwell in 
Him, even as He dwells in us. May our famished souls be 
nourished by that Bread of life, which is our very Self. 


Warnings and Hints to the 
Spiritual *A spirant 



of sublimation and purification of our feelings and desires, 
concentration becomes very dangerous. In the case of persons 
who have not prepared themselves properly for the higher 
life, it may lead to very bad effects. In a way, we all make the 
mind concentrated, but then we do not know how to ma- 
nipulate it. This concentrated mind will run after sensual 
enjoyment and all kinds of worldly distractions and objects 
with a greater intensity for having become concentrated. So 
if we do not know how to handle it in the right way, it be- 
comes a great danger. It is far better not to have concentra- 
tion if one does not attain sublimation and purification at 
the same time. Therefore the necessity of purity, of non- 
injury, truthfulness, continence, etc., in thought, word and 
deed, has to be stressed very much. Without sublimation of 
all our desires and feelings we cannot progress in the spir- 
itual path. It is after we have followed a strict code of ethics 
and morals that we should attempt concentration. The con- 
centrated mind, if it is not purified, becomes a veritable 
demon and creates untold troubles for the spiritual aspirant. 
The concentration of a worldly man on his gross material 
gain, profit and enjoyment; the concentration of the scientist 
on his experiments, for instance, on the structure of the atom 
or the constitution of the plant; the concentration of the 
Yogi upon his analysis of the ego and the non-egoall these 
are but different forms cf concentration, judged from the 
objective standpoint. But considered from the subjective 

VEDANTA For The Western World 196 

point of view their contents differ very widely, and they lead 
to altogether different experiences and results. 

The Yogic seeker after Truth, having no faith in God as 
ordinarily understood, may begin with concentration and 
meditation on gross elements associated with time and space. 
He may next take up the subtle elements as the objects of 
his concentration and meditation, at first within time and 
space, and later beyond their limits. Proceeding further, he 
may first make the mind, or "inner organ" and afterwards 
the ego, the objects of this concentration and meditation. 
Knowing the true nature of these objects he ceases to identify 
himself with these limiting adjuncts, and having come nearer 
to his real Self he enjoys a wonderful state of bliss and illumi- 

The Vedantic aspirant who believes in the existence of the 
Divine, may at the beginning meditate on the physical form 
of some great, holy personality, image or picture or symbolic 
representation of the Divine, first associated with time and 
space, and then without these limitations. Advancing further, 
he may meditate on the "heart" of the holy personality or on 
the Divine Mind, and gradually imbibe the noble attributes 
associated with it. Later, he may pass on to Pure Conscious- 
ness, individual or cosmic, and thereby succeed in purifying 
and expanding his impure, limited consciousness, and come 
in touch with the Infinite Being within his Self, and even 
proceed to the highest Divine Realization in which the medi- 
tator, like a salt-doll coming in contact with the ocean, gets 
merged into the Absolute Divine Principle. Thus beginning 
with different forms of concentration and meditation asso- 
ciated with individualised consciousness, he may reach the 
highest Superconsciousness the Absolute Reality, the One 
Undivided Principlein which all subject-object relation- 
ship, nay, all relativity, is completely transcended. 

By themselves concentration and meditation may not have 
any spiritual value. As already said, they may even be dan- 
gerous if the person who practices them has not already 
attained a certain amount of mental purification and does 
not continue the process of sublimation at the same time. 
Concentration and meditation become spiritually effective to 

1 97 Warnings and Hints to the Spiritual 

the extent to which the mind is purified of its dross, of all 
the dirt and filth and bad impressions and tendencies it has 
been allowed to accumulate through successive evil thoughts 
and actions. With the attainment of great dispassion and 
purity alone can the aspirant take up successfully the higher 
forms of concentration and meditation, ultimately leading to 
the highest Divine experience and freedom. 


Every average person has the capacity to practice concen- 
tration and meditation, although these are usually directed 
towards persons or objects of gain and enjoyment presented 
to us by the world. In order to follow the spiritual life, no 
new faculties need be created all of a sudden. The old ca- 
pacities and tendencies are to be given a Godward turn with- 
out diminishing their intensity, and then the worldly man 
is transformed into a spiritual man. So the true devotee 
prays, "Lord, may I think of Thee with that strong love 
which the ignorant cherish for the things of the world, and 
may that love never cease to abide in my heart." 

The ego asserts itself again and again. So, says Sri Rama- 
krishna, make it the servant of the Lord. Desires and passions 
refuse to be controlled. Give a Godward turn to them, main- 
taining their intensity; so advises the spiritual teacher. In- 
stead of yearning for the company of men and women, yearn 
for union with the Divine. See Him in all, but take care that 
you do not cheat yourself. He alone can satisfy the hunger 
of the soul. He alone can fill its void and give it permanent 
peace and joy. 

Instead of being angry with those standing in the way of 
your sense-enjoyments, gross or subtle, be angry with all the 
obstacles lying in the path to the Divine. Learn to be angry 
with your lower desires, with your turbulent passions, with 
your very anger, and avoid them all as your great and relent- 
less enemies. Instead of wishing to possess another "human 
doll" or fleeting worldly wealth, covet the Divine and His 
inexhaustible wealth which can never be lost and is alone 
able to give abiding peace. So, says the Bhagavatam: "Lust, 

VEDANTA For The Western World 198 

anger, fear, affection, fellowship and friendship, when di- 
rected towards the Divine Being, lead to union with the 

At the touch of the philosopher's stone all the base metals 
of desires and passions, of greed and anger, lose their evil 
nature and are transmuted into pure devotion bringing Bliss 
and Immortality to the soul. "Even if the very wicked wor- 
ships Me the Divinewith devotion to none else, he should 
be regarded as good, for he has rightly resolved. Soon does 
he become righteous and obtain eternal peace. Boldly canst 
thou proclaim that My devotee never comes to grief," says 
the Bhagavad-Gita. 

Time and again, Sri Ramakrishna says, "Give a Godward 
turn to all your tendencies/' Especially in the path of devo- 
tion, all desires and passions should be consciously given a 
higher direction without allowing them to decrease in 


Let us take, e.g., the question of anger. Why are we angry? 
Only because some one or other is standing in the way of 
what we think to be the object of our enjoyment. This is the 
only reason for all our anger. Always we find that anger is 
closely connected with the overstressed ego or a strong sense 
of personality, and without this strong sense of the ego and 
an inordinate desire for enjoyment, physical and mental, 
anger could never even rise in our hearts. So this ego, this 
desire of enjoyment, is the only cause of our becoming angry. 
If we do not desire any enjoyment, if we do not expect any- 
thing from anybody, but just give and act without ever ex- 
pecting any return, giving up all expectations, there can 
never be any rise of anger. So we should get angry with our 
desires for sense-enjoyment and not with the objects as such. 
This is the only practical way of uprooting anger and even- 
tually eliminating it. And without eliminating anger and 
other associated evils to a great extent, we can never make 
progress in spiritual life. Lust and anger are the two greatest 
enemies in the spiritual path. So they should be carefully 
avoided by all aspirants. 

1 99 Warnings and Hints to the Spiritual *As$irant 

Thus, whenever there is anger there is some attachment 
or other, some inordinate desire or affection, for, truly speak- 
ing, without attachment to some person or thing there can 
never rise any form of anger. It is only our thwarted will to 
enjoyment that brings anger. But this should be understood 
more in a subtle sense than in a gross one. It need not neces- 
sarily be any craving for the grosser forms of enjoyment that 
lies as the root-cause of anger. 

It may happen that a person is fully convinced of the evil 
effects of desires, but still is not able to rid himself com- 
pletely of them. What is such a person to do? How can he 
rise above them? He can direct them all, directly or in- 
directly, to the Divine, give every desire, every sensual im- 
pulse, every passion a Godward turn, consciously and know- 
ingly, with an effort of the will. If he cannot rid himself of 
the inordinate desire for music, let him listen to devotional, 
holy music, and all the time he is so doing, let him think of 
the Divine. If his artistic sense and his desire to enjoy are 
very strong, he should take up some holy form of art and 
make that a stepping stone for rising to the plane of the 
Divine. If he is very fond of the sweet fragrance and beauty 
of flowers and wishes to enjoy them, let him pluck the 
flowers, offer them to the Divine and decorate the holy altar 
artistically with them. If he desires to love somebody, feels 
greatly attracted towards somebody, let him love the Divine 
in that person and be thereby directly drawn towards the 
Divine. If done consciously and knowingly, all this acts as a 
great controlling factor, as a great regulating agency, helping 
us in sublimating our desires and in giving them a higher 
and higher turn and attaining a greater and greater purity. 
But even here the ultimate goal to be attained by the aspir- 
ant is perfect control and Divine Realization. Everything 
else serves only as a stepping-stone to that. Following the 
graduated steps we must be able to rise to the Highest sooner 
or later. 

Unless all the filth and foulness which has gathered in the 
mind is removed from it, from all nooks and corners, our 
problem is not really solved. If some light just enters a room 
through a chink in the door and the rest of the room remains 
shrouded in darkness and continues to be dirty, nothing is 

VEDANTA For The Western World 200 

achieved. There is no real spiritual illumination if just a 
tiny bit of light enters our mind and all the dirt and filth 
lying there is pushed away for the time being into some far- 
off corner. In such a case the man remains just what he was 
before he had this kind of "glimpse." Mere theories and phi- 
losophies do not help us in any way, however wonderful they 
may be. What is essential is the practical application, the 
sublimation, the removal of all the dirt lying hidden in the 
dark corners of the mind, not merely attempting to make the 
mind an absolute blank as some people would have it, 
which only leads to self-induced sleep in the beginner, but 
not to any form of real illumination. People talking of the 
complete stopping of all the mental modifications at the very 
beginning of their spiritual life do not know what they 

Very often there is in us a certain amount of external con- 
trol, but as distinct from this there should be real internal 
control. If we are outwardly controlled, but are not able to 
stop the activity in the sense-organ or in the mind, there 
is still a struggle ahead for us. If the senses have been 
controlled, but are still eager to come in touch with the 
sense-objects, real control has not been achieved, but only 
its outward form. Even then a step has been taken in the 
right direction. 

One form of control is to draw oneself away completely 
from the objects of the senses. Another form is to allow the 
senses to come in touch with things that are pure and not 
likely to harm the aspirant by rousing fresh desires in him. 
This is the better and easier method for most people. 

"O my mind, worship the Mother and repeat day and 
night the great Mantram (the mystic word) that you have 
received from your Guru. When you lie down, think that 
you are meditating on Her. When you eat, think that you 
are offering food to Her. With great joy Ramprasad pro- 
claims, 'Mother dwells in all bodies. When you walk in the 
city think that you are going round the Mother Divine.' " 

The idea of this beautiful song is this:To connect con- 
sciously every thought and every single act of our life either 
directly or indirectly with the Divine, to practice the Pres- 
ence of God at all times. 

2OI Warnings and Hints to the Spiritual Aspirant 


The Divine is everywhere and in everything, but we 
should learn to discriminate and act accordingly. We should 
learn to become more wide-awake and conscious. We should 
be more reflective and act less on the impulse of the senses 
and of our instincts, be they good or bad. We are so careless 
and easy-going in all this, that we follow the opposite course 
and bring no end of trouble on ourselves. 

We should fully recognise this idea of Unity but in the 
right way. At present we recognise this so half-heartedly. 
And properly speaking, without acquiring true dispassion 
and detachment we cannot recognise it whole-heartedly and 
live up to it. If we were convinced that the One Undivided 
Principle exists in all, we could not have any strong hatred 
or any animal love for anybody, separate from the rest, but 
would only turn our eyes towards the Principle at the back 
of him. This does not mean that we are to be like fools. No, 
we still should know that the tiger is a tiger, in spite of its 
being a manifestation of this One Undivided Principle. So 
we should not go and shake hands with it. We should know 
the Principle to be present both in man and woman, but this 
knowledge should not prevent us from discriminating and 
being careful so long as we are on this phenomenal plane. 
We should see the One Principle at the back of the worldly 
person leading an impure and immoral life, but we should 
not go and have association with him. This is very, very 
essential. And if we do not live up to this rule, our feet will 
slip one day, and we shall seriously come to grief. The aspir- 
ant can never be careful enough in this. To the extent that 
we recognise the One Undivided Principle in all, our hatred, 
our so-called human love, our attachment, would be dimin- 
ished and lose all strength and influence. Wherever we find 
in an aspirant the desire to mix indiscriminately with worldly- 
minded people and with members of the opposite sex, there 
is something seriously wrong. His desire for worldly things 
and enjoyment have not yet lost their tenacity and no puri- 
fication has been attained. So spiritual progress and realiza- 
tion are altogether out of the question. 

Ordinarily our attachment clouds our whole understand- 

VEDANTA For <fhe Western World 202 

ing. We must be able to streps the spirit more than the form, 
more than the personalities and sense-objects, but so long as 
our craving for sense-enjoyment, our clinging to this little 
personality of ours, continues to cloud our understanding, 
we can never really think of this One Undivided Principle, 
and thus we go on committing the same old mistakes over 
and over again. So dispassion should be cultivated as much as 
possible by all aspirants. Without it nothing positive can be 


Christ says, "He who loves father and mother more than 
Me, >s not worthy of Me." And that is perfectly true. Not 
only that, but also he who allows another to love him more 
than the Divine is not worthy of God. He who allows another 
to be more attracted by him than by the Divine is not worthy 
of God and cannot attain Him. When we make another per- 
son love us in such a way by not being sufficiently reserved, 
we are not worthy of God. So, in this, too, we should be very 
careful and wide-awake. We feel flattered, no doubt, we like 
being attractive to others, we like being loved by others as 
objects of enjoyment. But we are too impulsive and too un- 
reflective to know that from the spiritual standpoint we 
create troubles both for ourselves and for others and prevent 
our progress. We should be dignified and well guarded. We 
should take such an attitude that others do not dare to ap- 
proach us in a wrong way. In short, we should try tr ; >ossess 
greater and greater discrimination. 

Dispassion has both its negative and its positive aspect. We 
should try to disconnect ourselves from others as much as 
possible and then connect ourselves with the Divine. So that 
later on all connection with others can be made only through 
the Div?ne, but never again in a direct way. Human love con- 
nected with the Divine can be gradually transmuted, but if 
it is not so connected, it degenerates and always ends in dis- 
aster and misery, whatever we may think to the contrary. All 
our relationships, if they be direct relationships, are only 
carried on through the medium of the body and its phys- 

203 Warnings and Hints to the Spiritual ^Aspirant 

ical contacts. There is nothing lasting in them that could 
ever bring peace and real blessedness to any of us. 

It is really very strange that people suffer so much and still 
are not brought to their senses, but cling to all these false 
identifications. Very often we forget the goal and take the 
means to be the goal. The whole world is bound by the de- 
sire for wealth and by the desire for sex. But we should learn 
to develop a new attitude towards both. We make money the 
highest goal of our life, and then we come to grief. We make 
love of a man or a woman the ultimate aim of our life, and 
end our life in misery. We should become introspective and 
know what is the real goal of life and then try to realize it. 

Ordinarily there is in us such an awful identification with 
our body and our senses and passions that we just brush God 
aside. Whenever there is skepticism with reference to the 
Divine, there is some inordinate clinging to the self and to 
the senses and their objects, because of which God is pushed 
out. So long as the individual is full of sense-enjoyment, de- 
sire for possession, of egoism and vanity, God has no place in 
his life. The Divine is pushed away by our creature- 
consciousness. If the mind becomes perfectly free from de- 
sires and passions, one realizes the Divine then and there. So 
if we do not realize God, if we do not even get a glimpse of 
the Truth, we need not ask why it is so. We should know 
that in the conscious and in the subconscious mind there are 
still strong desires, and we should first rid ourselves of thes* 
obstructions. So long as we allow them to remain, the ques- 
tion does not even arise. 

We should break the sway of our impulses over us. The 
very moment these impulses rise in us, we should try to ex- 
pand ourselves, for then these impulses at once disappear 
just as the waves disappear in the ocean. The man who 
knows how to expand his consciousness, who knows how to 
attain a higher form of consciousness, is not affected by such 
impulses that rise in the mind. One of the most effective 
means to rise above one's impulses is to come in touch with 
the Divine Consciousness, with the Infinite Presence which 
is always in us. And without knowing how to rise above our 
instincts, without knowing how to control and curb our pas- 
sions and cultivate true renunciation and dispassion, without 

VEDANTA For The Western World 204 

having tried to attain the purity of mind and body, there can 
be no spiritual life for anyone. So we should become more 
reflective and more discriminating. We are not consistent 
enough in our thinking and in our actions. There should 
never be any haziness in the Vedantic aspirant. Vagueness 
and indefiniteness have no place in true spiritual life. Every- 
thing should be clear. We must have definite and right 
thoughts, definite and right emotions and feelings, definite 
and right actions, then alone can we proceed to the Divine 
goal and realize it 

^^enunciation and Austerity 


QUESTION: Should not a spiritual teacher manifestly demon- 
strate that he has, for the love of God, given up everything 
should he not live with only the barest necessities? 

Answer: You would then identify the life of renunciation 
with a life of poverty and discomfort, and you would say that 
if a spiritual teacher lives in comfort and in a plentiful 
household he is evidently not living the consecrated life. 
Your view has no doubt a surface plausibility, but it is too 
simple. A man of true renunciation concerns himself neither 
with poverty nor with riches. One person may live in dire 
poverty, and another may live in luxury, and yet both be 
steeped in spiritual ignorance and confirmed in worldliness. 
What is renunciation? Renunciation is the giving up of 
everything. The rich must give up his riches, and the poor 
must give up his poverty. If the poor man hugs his few trivial 
possessions and clings greedily to his meagre earnings, he is 
as much attached, and is as much a worldly man, as the rich 
man with his limousines and his princely income. Only the 
poor man is the worse off because of his envy! To be a man 
of renunciation one must completely give up everything, 
without thought of keeping for himself even the barest neces- 
sities of life. He must possess nothing but God. How can one 
really achieve such a state? Only by fully realizing that the 
ideal is to renounce, utterly, me and mine. Attachment 
whether to a rag and a hut or to silk robes and palaces does 
not come from a quality in objects, but from a possessive 
taint in the soul. Everything belongs either to nature or to 
God. The moment you label anything as yours, you begin 
to suffer from attachment. The ideal monk, therefore, sub- 
dues all craving for possessions, renounces the ego-sense, and 


VEDANTA For The Western World 206 

becomes content to live either in the midst of poverty or in 
the midst of plenty. 

"He who is everywhere unattached," says the Gita, "not 
pleased at receiving good, not vexed at evilhis wisdom is 

The vow of a monk is not a vow of poverty as the expres- 
sion would be generally understood in the West: it is a vow 
to cease craving for things. 

"That man who lives devoid of longing" if we may return 
to the Gita "abandoning all craving, without the sense of 
T and 'mine' he attains to peace." 

Remember: the ideal of renunciation is nothing that can 
be vulgarly demonstrated. It is the inner life, hidden from 
the eyes of all; for renunciation is in the mind and not in the 
object. A spiritual man is never eager to convince people of 
his spirituality. It is only the fakirs and the hypocrites who 
try to show their renunciation and their austerity by prac- 
ticing mortifications of the flesh, and this they do either to 
gratify some selfish desire or to gain recognition for them- 

Thus, again, the Gita: 

"The austerity which is practiced with the object of gain- 
ing notoriety, honor, and worship, and with ostentation, is 
said to be rajasika, unstable and transitory. 

"That austerity which is practiced for some foolish pur- 
pose, for self-torture or for the purpose of harming another, 
is declared to be tamasika." 

A man who seeks the spiritual ideal always seeks to please 
God and never seeks to please man. 

Question: What is austerity then? Should we not practice 

Answer: In Sanskrit it is called Tapas, which literally 
means that which generates heat or energy. In other words, 
it is the practice of conserving energy and directing it to- 
wards a single goal illumination in one's own soul. It is not 
by observing an externally austere life, in the Western sense 
of living in discomfort and poverty, or by torturing the flesh, 
that one can achieve this goal. Mere outward austerity is a 
degenerate form of ritualism, and is condemned by illu- 

207 Renunciation and ^Austerity 

mined souls. As to external observances, both Krishna and 
Buddha teach moderation. 

Again I quote the Gita: 

"Success in Yoga is pot for him who eats too much or too 
little nor, O Arjuna, for him who sleeps too much or too 

"To him who is temperate in eating and recreation, in his 
activity, and in sleep and wakefulness, Yoga becomes the 
destroyer of misery/' 

If by observing certain forms of living, or by undergoing 
some physical discomfort, one could gain self-control, re- 
ligious life would be very easy. Degeneration in organized 
monasticism began only after the introduction of that kind 
of ritualism. Instances are not wanting of monks who to all 
appearance lived an austere life, yet who, having learned no 
self-control, even in the loneliness of their cells were guilty 
of abominations. The ideal, the spirit, is forgotten: the form 
is all. 

Thus speaks the Gita: 

"Worship of the higher powers, service to the teacher and 
to the wise, cleanliness, external and internal, straightfor- 
wardness, continence, and care not to injure any being 
these things are known as the austerity of the body. 

"Speech which causes no vexation, and is true, and also 
agreeable and beneficial, and regular study of the Scriptures 
these are said to constitute the austerity of speech. 

"Serenity of mind, kindliness, silence, self-control, honesty 
of motive this is called the austerity of the mind." 

In short: passionless peace can be had only by control o 
the passions and by devotion, in meditation, to God. 

One point in this connection needs to be emphasized: we 
should never forget that the ideal of life is neither austerity 
nor renunciation, nor even meditation, but to know God, to 
be illumined within one's own soul. The means must never 
be confused with the end. 

Question: Should not the life of a spiritual man be con- 
fined to communion with God and instruction of seekers, so 
that the most casual worldling can have no doubt of his sin- 
cerity? Should not his only comfort be unmistakably in one 
thing exclusive communion with God? 

VEDANTA For The Western World 208 

Answer: Yes, truly, the life of such a man must be a con- 
tinuous communion with God. He must live, move, and have 
his being in Him. Without devotion, in meditation, to God, 
no illumination is possible. With closed eyes must he medi- 
tate, and with open eyes also he must commune with God. 
In work, in leisure, even while asleep, he must learn to live 
in God. 

But, again, his communion with God must be such that 
not even his friend would know that he is communing with 
Godto say nothing of a casual worldling. 

"And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypo- 
crites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues 
and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of 
men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward. 

"But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and 
when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy father which is in 

No, a spiritual soul never makes any demonstration either 
of his renunciation or of his communion with God. He even 
sometimes raises external barriers to shield himself from the 
eyes of the curious. He does not desire to attract the atten- 
tion of the frivolous. In the long, long line of illumined 
souls and teachers, nowhere do we find any that were recog- 
nized as such by worldlings. Buddha was denounced as an 
atheist; Christ was crucified as an impostor; Ramakrishna 
Was shunned as a madman. 

On a Sentence from Shakespeare* 


IF YOU SAY ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING, it all tends to cancel out 
into nothing. Which is why no explicit philosophy can be 
dug out of Shakespeare. But as a metaphysic-by-implication, 
as a system of beauty-truth, constituted by the poetical re- 
lationships of scenes and lines, and inhering, so to speak, in 
the blank spaces between even such words as "told by an 
idiot, signifying nothing," the plays are the equivalent of a 
great theological Summa. And of course, if you choose to 
ignore the negatives which cancel them out, what extraordi- 
nary isolated utterances of a perfectly explicit wisdom! I 
keep thinking, for example, of those two and a half lines in 
which Hotspur casually summarizes a whole epistemology, 
a whole ethic, a whole theology. 

But thought's the slave of life, and life's time's fool, 
And time that takes survey of all the world 
Must have a stop. 

Three clauses, of which the twentieth century has paid atten- 
tion only to the first. Thought's enslavement to life is one of 
our favorite themes. Bergson and the Pragmatists, Adler and 
Freud, the Dialectical Materialists and the Behaviorists all 
tootle their variations upon it. Mind, we are told, is nothing 
but a food-gathering mechanism; controlled by unconscious 
forces, either aggressive or sexual; the product of social and 
economic pressures; a bundle of conditioned reflexes. 

All this is quite true so far as it goes; quite false if it goes 
no further. For obviously, if mind is only some kind of a 
nothing-but, none of its affirmations can make any claim to 
a general validity. But all nothing-but philosophies actually 

'This passage subsequently appeared in "Time Must Have a Stop." 


VEDANTA For the Western World 210 

make such claims. Therefore they cannot be true; for if they 
were true, that would be the proof that they are false. 
Thought's the slave of life yes, undoubtedly. But if it 
weren't also something else, we couldn't make even this 
partially valid generalization. 

The significance of Hotspur's second clause is mainly 
practical. Life's time's fool. By merely elapsing, time makes 
nonsense of all that life consciously schemes for in the 
temporal order. No considerable action has ever had all, or 
nothing but, the results expected of it. Except under strictly 
controlled conditions, or in circumstances where we can ab- 
stract from reality, ignore individuals and concern ourselves 
only with vast numbers and the law of averages, any kind of 
accurate foresight is impossible. In all actual human situ- 
ations more variables are involved than the human mind can 
take account of; and with the passage of time the variables 
tend to increase in number and change their character. Ail 
this is a matter of everyday experience. And yet the only 
faith of a majority of twentieth-century Americans and Eu- 
ropeans is faith in the Future the bigger and better Future 
which they know that Progress is going to produce for them, 
like white rabbits out of a hat. For the sake of what their 
faith tells them about a Future, which their reason assures 
them to be almost completely unknowable, men are prepared 
to sacrifice their only tangible possession, the Present. Dur- 
ing the last thirty years about fifty millions of Europeans 
have been liquidated in wars and revolutions. Why? The 
nationalists and revolutionaries all give the same answer. "In 
order that the great-great-grandchildren of those who are 
now being liquidated may have an absolutely wonderful 
time in A.D. 2043." And (choosing, according to taste or po- 
litical opinion, from among the Wellsian, Marxian or Fascist 
blueprints) we solemnly proceed to visualize and describe 
the sort of wonderful time these lucky beggars are going to 
have. Just as our Victorian great-great-grandfathers solemnly 
visualized and described the sort of wonderful time we were 
going to have in the middle years of the twentieth century. 

True religion concerns itself with the givenness of the 
timeless. And idolatrous religion is one which substitutes 
time for eternity either past time, in the form of a rigid tra- 

2 1 1 On a Sentence from Shakespeare 

dition, or else future time, in the form of Progress towards 
Utopia. And both are Molochs, both demand human sacri- 
fice. Spanish Catholicism was a typical idolatry of past time. 
Nationalism, Communism, Fascism, all the twentieth-century 
pseudo-religions, are typical idolatries of future time. 

What have been the consequences of Western man's recent 
shift of attention from past to future time? An intellectual 
progress from the Garden of Eden to Utopia and the Classless 
Society; a moral and political advance from compulsory or- 
thodoxy and the divine right of kings to military and indus- 
trial conscription for everybody, the infallibility of the local 
political boss and the deification of the State. Before or be- 
hind, time can never be worshiped with impunity. 

But Hotspur's summary has a final clause: time must have 
a stop. And not only must, as a prophecy or an ethical im- 
perative, but also does have a stop, in the present indicative 
tense and as a matter of brute empirical experience, here and 
now, for all who so desire. It is only by taking the fact of 
eternity into account that we can deliver thought from its 
slavery to life. And it is only by deliberately paying our at- 
tention and our primary allegiance to eternity that we can 
prevent time from turning our lives into a pointless or dia- 
bolic foolery. Brahman, the Ground, the Clear Light of the 
Void, the Kingdom of God are all one timeless reality. Seek 
it first, and all the restfrom an adequate philosophy to a 
release from the compulsion to stultify and destroy ourselves 
will be added. Or, to put the matter in Shakespearean lan- 
guage, if we cease to be "most ignorant" of what we are 
"most assured, our glassy essence" the indwelling spirit, the 
principle of our being, the Atman then we shall be other 
than that dreadful caricature of humanity who 

like an angry ape, 

Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven 
As make the angtls weep. 


Where I Have 


ONE AFTERNOON, about four years ago, I was asleep on my 
bed in an hotel in Beverly Hills. My sleep was a deep one, 
so deep that when I awoke from it, I could not momentarily 
remember where I was. I had travelled a good deal in the 
preceding years, living in a number of places, and as I lay 
with my eyes still closed, I found myself struggling to lay 
hold of the continuity of life and to remember whether I was 
in California, New York, London or Mexico. After a moment, 
the knowledge came to me: "I am in California. This body 
lying beside me (for so it seemed at that moment) on the 
bed; this thing called 'me,' that I accept as 'me'; that is in 
California; but I am where I have always been/' Then I 
opened my eyes; the body became me; and I was in Cali- 

But the phrase remained with me, haunting me, asking to 
be thought of, to have its fullest meaning dug out of it, offer- 
ing itself as a means of illumination in dark places. What 
exactly does it mean? If I knew, and knew to the utmost, I 
should, I suppose, have reached that full enlightenment that 
dispels illusion, the illusion of materiality and of the phe- 
nomenal world. There is little need to say that I do not know, 
but it may be worth trying to record what has glimmeringly 
emerged from my reflections upon it. 

The phrase suggests at first the same knowledge that comes 
to us sometimes in a dream the knowledge that one is 
dreaming, and that the experiences then being undergone 
are not real. This knowledge, while it can mitigate a dream, 
however, seldom serves to dispel it; and the same would 
seem to be exactly true of the knowledge that the experi- 

213 / *Am Where I Have ^Always <Been 

ences of the material world are illusory. One can know that 
one is "where one has always been," but the phenomenal 
world continues to assert itself; the illusion is not broken by 
the knowledge that it is an illusion. But the world is changed, 
no matter how little, as anyone who has had a glimpse of 
any such experience will know. From then on, it is never 
quite the same; its stuff is never quite so tough and unyield- 
ing; its colour is tinged always, no matter how faintly, with 
the hue of those faint intimations of immortality. That 
much, at least, is achieved. 

"Where I have always been," The immediate question is: 
"Where?" and the answer, equally immediate, is "With 
God," meaning thereby, whatever one's training, learning or 
personal inclination tells one that God may be. "FJe that 
dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide 
under the shadow of the Almighty," says the psalmist. And 
also, "Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all genera- 
tions." Which last is the exact equivalent of the phrase with 
which I awoke that afternoon. 

For some years, both before and since that experience, I 
have been a student of that most widely misconceived reli< 
gion, Christian Science. I say "misconceived," because the 
general impression is that it is a method of healing and 
of getting material benefits; a religion devoted exclusively 
to making itself a substitute for surgery, aspirin or personal 
endeavor. Read its testimonies (one is tempted sometimes 
to call them advertisements), and the impression is con- 
firmed. "I had a headache." "My life was despaired of." "My 
small son was declared incurable by the doctors." These 
sound exactly like the testimonials for patent medicines. I, 
myself, went to Christian Science first, for just such a pur- 
poseto ask for a healing and a miracle. The fact that I did 
not receive them was my salvation; had I done so, in all 
probability I should never have gone further, never opened 
my mind to try and learn what the religion meant or what it 
was that had healed me. It would have remained a surgery- 
substitute to me from then on. 

It was, I think, Bernard Shaw who said that the miracles 
were the greatest stumbling-block to Christianity, since what 
Christ appeared to be saying was something like: "You 

VEDANTA For rhe Western World 214 

should love your neighbour as yourself , and to prove what 
I say, I will now cure this gentleman of cataract." The same 
is true of Christian Science, or of any unexplained use of a 
non-material power; the miracles and the teaching seem un- 
connected. Only as one turns to the teaching, not for results, 
but for its own sake, does the connecting link appear. 

In Science much is heard about "demonstration," a very 
ill-used word. "I demonstrated supply." "I demonstrated 
freedom from indigestion." Even, "I demonstrated a car." 
That is the kind of thing, and it is just as ridiculous and 
wrong as it sounds to the lay ear. Anyone with an under- 
standingI will not say merely of what Science stands for, 
but of what religion stands for knows that demonstration 
can never be of material things. As a recent writer has pointed 
out, the only thing that can be demonstrated is God, and 
Man's oneness with God. That oneness that coincidence of 
Man with God is the whole basis of Christian Science teach- 
ing, as of all religious teaching, obscured though it has be- 
come. "The desire to get must be replaced by an understand- 
ing and acknowledgment of that which one already spiritually 
is." That is a composite quotation from an article by one of 
the most modern of Christian Science teachers. 

What does that mean? Only, surely, that Man is "where 
he has always been" a part of God and that the under- 
standing, acknowledgment and expression of that fact is 
what is demanded of Man; is his duty and his purpose. This 
I had learned imperfectly enough before that afternoon's 
experience, although after many years in which I had closed 
my eyes to it. The experience strengthened the knowledge, 
though there are still long stretches of unwatchfulness when 
it recedes, eluding one, when the sense of duality (at best) 
persists, and one seems to be compounded of materiality and 
spirit, if not fashioned of materiality alone. Only by flashes, 
or from constant meditation, can the reality be laid hold of 
the true sense of being where one has always been, and what 
one has always been namely, spirit. 

It is this last statement, coupled with the fact that I have 
written in such pages as these of the religion of Christian 
Science, which makes me wish to add a final paragraph to try 
to bring that religion a little further into line with the 

215 / *Am Where I Have ^Always TZeen 

Hindu teachings. I would like to quote two passages; one 
from the textbook "Science and Health" a passage which is 
the basic statement in the whole book and the other a pas- 
sage that I recently came upon in Sankaracharya's "Atma 
Bodha." "There is no ... truth in matter," says Mrs. Eddy. 
"All is Infinite Mind and Its Infinite Manifestation, for God 
is All-in-All. Matter is the unreal and the temporal; Spirit 
is the real and the eternal, Spirit is God, and Man is His 
image and likeness. Therefore Man is not material; he is 
spiritual." And, from the other: "All that belongs to the body 
must be considered as the product of ignorance; it is visible; 
it is perishable as bubbles of air on the surface of water; but 
that which has not these signs must be recognized as pure 
spirit, which says of itself 'I am Brahman.' . . . The Yogin . . . 
knows that all this movable world is spirit, and that beyond 
spirit there is nothing; as all varieties of vases are clay, so 
all things he sees are spirit." 

It is surely a first announcement of this theme, as the con- 
cert programme notes might call it, an announcement need- 
ing always to be held fast, reflected on and understood, that 
comes to one in such instants of awareness as the knowledge 
that, no matter where one's material body may be, the true 
self remains "where it has always been." 


Samadhi or Transcendental 


THE INDIAN PHILOSOPHY of religion is based upon the tran- 
scendental, supersensuous experience of sages and seers, and 
Indian sages and philosophers have further insisted that the 
final goal of life must be the attainment of transcendental 
consciousness. The different systems of Indian thought, and 
the various teachings of Indian philosophers, deal with the 
practical ways and means by which this transcendental re- 
alisation is made possible. From the seers of the Vedas and 
the Upanishads down to Sri Ramakrishna in our modern 
age, the history of Indian philosophy of religion is thus a 
record of the discovery and re-discovery of the eternal verities 
of life as they find their consummation in transcendental 

It should, however, be pointed out in this connection, that 
India has never claimed that such experience is limited only 
to the seers of India, for we find, for example, that Yaksha, 
the well-known Vedic commentator, stated the fact that at- 
tainment of the highest plane of superconsciousness is not 
always confined to the votaries of Vedic religion alone, but 
the same kind of experience is also found among those pro- 
fessing non- Vedic religions. 

Sri Ramakrishna again emphatically proved the truth that 
transcendental experience may be had not only by following 
the Vedic religion but also by following the gospel of Christ 
or Mahomet. 

What this transcendental consciousness is, we hope to 
make clearer than ever by a study of the life and teachings 
of Sri Ramakrishna who for twelve years actually practiced 
the spiritual disciplines as laid down by various religions 


217 Samadhi or Transcendental Consciousness 

and through each of them attained the same illumination in 
transcendental consciousness. 

Before we try to explain the nature of transcendental con- 
sciousness, let us try to explain what God is, because it is the 
truth of God that the seers realise when they enter into 
transcendental consciousness. 

Various are the conceptions which men have held of God. 
Yet not only Indian seers, but great teachers like Christ or 
Mahomet or Zoroaster claim that God is not a mere concep- 
tion of the human mind, but that He is, and that He can be 
realised. Why is it then that these teachers and various sys- 
tems of thought speak of Him differently? The Rig Veda 
gives the answer: "Truth is one, sages name it variously." 
Sri Ramakrishna used to say, "God, Allah, Brahman, Self, 
Mother and so forth art the various names given to the same 
reality, as the one and the same substance 'water' can be 
called by various names, such as water, pani, jala, etc." And 
so great religious teachers differ in form though not in ac- 
tuality, chiefly because they try to express in human terms 
their experience of the highest consciousness. 

Sri Ramakrishna throws great light on the subject, as he 
harmonizes the various conceptions of God in the following 

"What God is, none can define in words. Everything else 
has been defiled, as it were, like the leavings of food. The 
Vedas, the Tantras, the Puranas, the systems of philosophy- 
all are defiled; they have been studied by men, and they have 
been uttered by human tongue. In a sense, therefore, they 
are no longer pure. But there is one truth, one substance, 
that has never been defiled, and ,that is the truth of God. 
None has ever succeeded in describing that in words. 

"When one attains samadhi (transcendental consciousness), 
then only comes to him the knowledge of Brahman. Then 
only does he attain the vision of God. In that ecstatic realisa- 
tion all thoughts cease. Perfectly silent he becomes. No 
power of speech is left by which to express Brahman. He 
comes back from his ecstatic consciousness, and thereafter, it 
may be, talks; but he talks only that he may teach humanity. 
The bee buzzes until it lights in the heart of the flower. It 

VEDANTA For T 'he Western World 218 

becomes quiet as soon as it begins to sip the honey. Then 
again, after it has its fill, when it is at last drunk with honey, 
it makes a sweet, murmuring sound. 

"Brahman, whom the Vedas proclaim the Impersonal, is 
also the Divine Mother, the source of all power, the reposi- 
tory of all blessed qualities. The true knower of Brahman 
knows that He who is impersonal, without attribute, beyond 
the gunas, is again the personal God, the God of love, the re- 
pository of all blessed qualities. 

"He who lives continuously in the consciousness of God, 
and in this alone, knows Him in His true being. He knows 
His infinite expression, His various aspects. He knows Him 
as Impersonal no less than as Personal. 

"Brahman, absolute existence, knowledge, and bliss, may 
be compared to an infinite ocean, without beginning or end. 
As through intense cold some portions of the water of the 
ocean freeze into ice, and the formless water appears as hav- 
ing form, so through the intense love of the devotee the 
Formless, Absolute, Infinite Existence manifests Himself be- 
fore him as having form and personality. But the form melts 
away again with the rise of the sun of knowledge. Then, also, 
is die universe no more. Then is there but one infinite 

In short, Sri Ramakrishna declared, "There can be no fi- 
nality to the infinite." And he taught men how to realise 
God in one's own soul. To quote his words again: "Only 
when his heart becomes purified through the practice of 
spiritual disciplines does a man attain to wisdom. He then 
becomes convinced of the existence of God through realising 
Him in his own soul. There is, however, something greater 
than this attainment. To become convinced that fire lies 
hidden in the wood is one thing but greater is it to light the 
fire, cook food, and satisfy one's hunger. 

"He indeed has attained the supreme illumination who not 
only realises the presence of God, but who knows Him as 
both Personal Lnd Impersonal, who loves Him intensely, 
talks to Him, partakes of His bliss. Such an illumined soul 
realises the bliss of God while he is absorbed in meditation, 
attaining oneness with the indivisible, impersonal Being; 
and he realises the same bliss as he comes to normal con- 

2 1 9 Samadhi or Transcendental Consciousness 

seriousness and sees this universe as a manifestation of that 
Being and a divine play." 

So not only do the seers of the Vedas but also modern 
prophets claim that God as the ultimate reality can be ex- 
perienced in one's own soul. This experience, let me repeat, 
is not the experience of the senses, nor of the emotions, nor 
of the mind. This experience of God is the experience in 
samadhi or transcendental consciousness, which can be at- 
tained only by diligent, earnest, and strenuous practice of 
spiritual disciplines. 

What is samadhi? Is it like the visions which an aspirant 
may occasionally experience? As one practices spiritual dis- 
ciplines, sometimes wonderful visions of an ethereal light, or 
of spiritual forms of gods and goddesses or of Christ or 
Krishna or any saint or seer of the past, or of one's own Guru 
may appear. One may hear or see many truths which are not 
normally experienced. These are mystic visions and should 
not be confused with the attainment of samadhi. These arc 
real experiences no doubt; that is, they are not to be dis- 
carded as dreams or hallucinations. But the great seers who 
have attained the highest spiritual illumination point out to 
us that too much importance must not be placed on these 
visions. They are indications of spiritual progress, or as 
Swami Vivekananda said, they are "mile-stones on the way to 
progress"; but they are not the experiences one attains in 
samadhi. We must also note that such visions may not come 
to every spiritual aspirant, yet an aspirant may be progressing 
toward spiritual illumination. Once a disciple of Sri Rama- 
krishna appealed to the master with the request that he 
might have mystic visions such as many other disciples were 
having. To him Sri Ramakrishna replied: "Why are you 
anxious to get visions? Do you think that visions make up 
the whole substance of spiritual illumination? Try to culti- 
vate devotion to God and learn perfect control of self. These 
are much greater than visions." 

These mystic visions have value in spiritual life inasmuch 
as with their appearance, greater self-control and purity of 
heart are achieved; therefrom arises greater faith in spiritual 
attainment and the aspirant finds encouragement to proceed 
with his spiritual practices. 

VEDANTA For The Western World 220 

Samadhi, however, is a much higher stage, beyond the 
mystic visions, and that this is so is known by its effects upon 
the life of the aspirant. When one attains samadhi, his whole 
life becomes completely transformed. As Sri Ramakrishna 
says, a man then touches God, who is like the philosopher's 
stone, and is turned into gold. All doubts and ignorance 
then forever vanish away. In the words of the Mundaka 
Upanishad: "All the knots of the heart are unloosened, 
all doubts cease to exist when one attains illumination." 
Swami Vivekananda has humorously declared that even if a 
fool by any chance were to enter into samadhi, he would 
come back a wise man. Can one then relate what he experi- 
ences in samadhi? 

Let me quote in this connection what Father Poulain in 
interpreting Christian mystic experiences writes: "Noble 
scenes, profound ideas are offered to their spirits. But they 
are unable to explain what they have seen. This results not 
from any lethargy of their intelligence, but because they 
have been elevated to the vision of truths that the human 
spirit cannot attain to, and for which they have no terms. 
Will you ask a mathematician to express the profundities of 
the infinitesimal calculus with the vocabulary of a child?" L 
Professor James B. Pratt thinks "it is usually lack of mem- 
ory rather than lack of terms that makes it impossible for 
the mystic to communicate to others the truths revealed to 
him in his ravishment/ 1 2 

Though I am quite sure some of the great Christian 
mystics had attained the height of realisation we call samadhi, 
yet the above description of Father Poulain of the experi- 
ence of "noble scenes, profound ideas' 1 is not the description 
of the experience of samadhi. In this connection let me also 
quote two other descriptions of ecstasy as ci'ed by Professor 
Pratt. One relates the experience of Herman Joseph: "Sud- 
denly God enlarged the field of his insight; He showed him 
the firmament and the stars and made him understand their 
quality and quantity, or to speak more clearly, their beauty 
and immensity/' Another quotation is from St. Francis 

1 Quoted by Professor James B. Pratt in his valuable book, "Religious 

* "Religious Consciousness. 1 * p. 409. 

22 1 Samadhi or Transcendental Consciousness 

Xavier: "This state of intuition lasted about twenty-four 
hours; then, as if the veil had fallen again, I found myself as 
ignorant as before." These are certainly not the experiences 
in samadhi; I would simply interpret them as mystic visions. 
In samadhi the experience is not of many ideas or many 
truths, but rather the one truth of God. In the lower form of 
samadhi, the idea of ego, separate from God, is there, but 
only in relation to and in connection with God. The universe 
of many is then obliterated. And after one returns from 
samadhi, he does not find himself as ignorant as before, but 
he finds that "he lives, moves, and has his being in God/' To 
quote Sri Ramakrishna: "When one has attained the su- 
preme illumination, he lives always in God. With eyes closed, 
transcending the senses, absorbed in samadhi, he sees Him; 
and he sees Him with eyes open. For he sees Him as becom- 
ing all. Sri Chaitanya lived in three states of consciousness: 
the inner consciousness, wherein he would remain absorbed 
in samadhi, attaining his oneness with the Supreme Being; 
the middle consciousness, between the inner and the outer, 
wherein he would see the universe as the playground of 
Krishna, and Krishna playing in many forms and ways; and 
the outer consciousness, wherein he would sing the praises 
of God." 

I would say that Father Poulain's explanation of the reason 
why these mystic visions cannot be communicated that ordi- 
nary language lacks sufficient terms for a true accountand 
Professor Pratt's conclusion that want of memory of the vi- 
sions was the cause are probably both correct, as some visions 
may have fled from the memory as soon as the subject re- 
turned to normal consciousness, and again he may have been 
quite unable to tell what he had seen. Many mystic visions 
are, however, remembered, and many visions may be com- 
municated to others. With regard to the experience of 
samadhi, however, may I emphatically assert that I have 
heard it directly from certain great souls who to my knowl- 
edge have attained samadhi, that there is no lack of memory 
of one's experience in that state after one has returned to 
normal consciousness. Some part at least of that experience 
is moreover carried back into the normal state. 

Can the experience of samadhi be communicated to 

VEDANTA For The Western World 222 

others? Yes, and no. The reason why it cannot be expressed 
by word of mouth is not far to seek. To express is to define 
and limit. In samadhi is experienced the indefinable and un- 
limited Existence, knowledge, and bliss. Let me quote in this 
connection what the great neo-Platonist Plotinus says: 3 "How, 
then, are we to speak of the One? How can we speak of it at 
all, when we do not grasp it as itself? . . . The answer is that 
though the One escapes our knowledge, it does not entirely 
escape us. We have possession of it in such a way that we 
speak of it, but riot in such a way that we can express it. ... 
We are like men inspired and possessed who know only that 
they have in themselves something greater than themselves 
something they know not what and who therefore have 
some perception of that which has moved them, and are 
driven to speak of it because they are not (wholly) one with 
that which moves them. So it is with our relation to the 
Absolute One. When we use pure intelligence we recognise 
that it is the mind within the mind, the source of being and 
of all things that are of the same order with itself; but we see 
at the same time that the One is not identified with any of 
them but is greater than all we call being, greater and better 
than reason and intelligence and sense, though it is that 
which gives them whatsoever reality they have." 

Perhaps in similar words will a Hindu mystic, who has 
the savikalpa samadhi (lower samadhi), describe his experi- 

Though, however, the experience in samadhi cannot be 
related by tongue, it can be communicated in silence to 
others more directly and perhaps more tangibly. In Krishna, 
Buddha, Christ, and Ramakrishna this power to transmit the 
spiritual experience, even to give samadhi to others, was 
most manifest, and this power has been proved and testified 
to, as we shall see later, most effectively by Ramakrishna in 
our modern era. In lesser souls, also, this power to com- 
municate in silence has often been witnessed. This is the 
reason why scriptures advise living in the society of the holy. 
Samadhi is chiefly of two kinds: savikalpa, lower samadhi, 
and nirvikalpa, the higher kind. In the lower form of sa- 
madhi, there exists the sense of "I" as distinct though not 
3 As quoted by Professor Pratt in "Religious Consciousness." 

223 Samadhi or Transcendental Consciousness 

separate from God, wherein is realised the personal aspect 
of God. God the Creator, God the Father, God the Mother, 
God the Friend, God the Beloved any or all of these aspects 
of God may then be realised in their completeness. 

Nirvikalpa is the higher form of samadhi, wherein no 
sense of the separate ego is left, and there is realised the one- 
ness of the self with God, the Impersonal. In that experience, 
there is neither / nor you, neither one nor many. Patanjali 
defines it as the cessation of all waves of the mind, that is, 
the complete stoppage of all thoughts and impressions of the 
mind, conscious and subconscious. Patanjali advises that the 
means to the attainment of this samadhi is the practice of 
concentration through which may come cessation of all the 
waves of the mind. The Christian mystic Meister Eckhart 
mentions the same method of attainment in "Mystische 
Schriften." "Memory, understanding, will all tend toward 
diversity and multiplicity of thought, therefore you must 
leave them all aside, as well as perception, ideation, and 
everything in which you find yourself or seek yourself. Only 
then can you experience this new birth otherwise never." 4 

Sri Ramakrishna points out that in the attainment of 
nirvikalpa samadhi all sense of ego is completely wiped out 
and though this sense of ego is repossessed by the individual 
as he returns from samadhi, his ego is no longer the same 
"unripe" ego as before; it has "turned into gold by the touch 
of the philosopher's stone." It remains as the "servant of the 
Lord, as the child of God." 

Nirvikalpa samadhi, however, is not to be confused with 
unconscious trance. Sri Ramakrishna tells a story to illustrate 
the difference between nirvikalpa and unconscious trance. 
"A story," he says, "is told of a magician who was once 
showing tricks before a king, and was repeating, 'King, give 
me money, give me food and dress/ Suddenly his tongue 
turned upward and was joined to the throat inside. As a re- 
sult he attained the state of Kumbhak (suspension of breath). 
He was silent, and there was apparently no sign of life. So he 
was buried. After a time when somebody dug into the burial 
place, the magician was found seated in yoga posture. There- 
upon he was brought up out of the grave, and people flocked 

* Quoted by Professor Pratt in "Religious Consciousness." 

VEDANTA For The Western World 224 

to the place where he was, thinking that he was a holy man. 
Then he regained his consciousness and once more began to 
repeat, 'King, give me money, give me food, give me dress/ " 
The crucial test of nirvikalpa or of savikalpa samadhi is 
that when a man returns from samadhi, he is not the same 
ignorant man as before his experience, for his whole life has 
become transformed with the attainment of illumination, 
and he now lives always in God and experiences the joy and 
freedom of a man in whom the divine side of his nature is 
expressed. After unconscious trance, on the contrary, or after 
deep sleep wherein the ego seems to have vanished, when a 
man returns to normal consciousness, his ego returns and he 
is the same ignorant individual. In contrast to unconscious 
trance and sleep, nirvikalpa samadhi is full of light. It is 
consciousness itself, without the contents of consciousness, 
such as of me or thee or of outer objects. 

That this contentless consciousness is not the same as the 
unconsciousness which occurs in sleep is brought out very 
clearly in the Upanishads. 

The Mandukya Upanishad ; for instance, speaks of the 
three states of consciousness waking, dreaming, and dream- 
less sleep and in contrast to these is the Turiya the fourth, 
the transcendental consciousness. The Chandogya Upani- 
shad, by the famous story of how Indra and Virochana went 
to learn of the knowledge of Brahman from the teacher 
Prajapati, reveals how the unconsciousness of deep sleep 
serves no purpose in the knowledge of the Self, but that if we 
would attain our goal we must rise above and beyond the 
three states into the Turiya, the fourth. 


(^hant the J^ame of the Lord 1 


CHANT THE NAME of the Lord and His Glory unceasingly 

That the mirror of the heart may be wiped clean 

And quenched that mighty forest fire, 

Worldly lust, raging furiously within. 

Oh Name, stream down in moonlight on the lotus-heart, 

Opening its cup to knowledge of Thyself. 

Oh self, drown deep in the waves of His bliss, 

Chanting His Name continually, 

Tasting His nectar at every step, 

Bathing in His Name, that bath for weary souls. 

Various are Thy Names, Oh Lord, 

In each and every Name Thy power resides. 

No times are set, no rites are needful, for chanting of Thy 


So vast is Thy mercy. 
How huge, then, is my wretchedness 
Who find, in this empty life and heart, 
No devotion to Thy Name! 

Oh, my mind, 

Be humbler than a blade of grass, 

Be patient and forbearing like the tree, 

Take no honor to thyself, 

Give honor to all, 

Chant unceasingly the Name of the Lord. 

i Translated from the original Sanskrit by Swami Prabhavananda and 
Christopher Isherwood. Sri Chaitanya (1485-1533). is onc of India ' 8 
gaints. He is famed for his ecstatic devotion to Krishna. 


VEDANTA For ^he Western World 226 

Oh Lord and Soul of the Universe, 

Mine is no prayer for wealth or retinue, 

The playthings of lust or the toys of fame; 

As many times as I may be reborn 

Grant me, Oh Lord, a steadfast love for Thee. 

A drowning man in this world's fearful ocean 

Is Thy servant, Oh Sweet One. 

In Thy mercy 

Consider him as dust beneath Thy feet. 

Ah, how I long for the day 

When, in chanting Thy Name, the tears will spill down 

From my eyes, and my throat will refuse to utter 

Its prayers, choking and stammering with ecstasy, 

When all the hairs of my body will stand erect with joyf 

Ah, how I long for the day 

When an instant's separation from Thee, Oh Govinda, 

Will be as a thousand years, 

When my heart burns away with its desire 

And the world, without Thee, is a heartless void. 

Prostrate at Thy feet let me be, in unwavering devotion, 

Neither imploring the embrace of Thine arms 

Nor bewailing the withdrawal of Thy Presence 

Though it tears my soul asunder. 

Oh Thou, who stealest the hearts of Thy devotees, 

Do with me what Thou wilt 

For Thou art my heart's Beloved, Thou and Thou alone* 

Unpublished Lecture 


(This hitherto unpublished lecture was delivered by Swami Vivekananda 
to the Shakespeare Club of Pasadena, California, on January 27, 1900. It was 
recorded in a notebook which has recently been given to the Editors by Mrs. 
Ida Herman, a personal friend of the Swami. Although this transcription was 
unedited, it has been thought best to make as few cuts and alterations as pos- 
siblein order to preserve the charm and force of Vivekananda's characteristic 

Now, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, the subject for this morning 
was to have been the Vedanta Philosophy. That subject itself 
is interesting, but rather dry and very vast. 

Meanwhile, I have been asked by your president and some 
of the ladies and gentlemen here to tell them something 
about my work and what I have been doing. It may be inter- 
esting to some here, but not so much so to me. In fact, I 
don't quite know how to tell it to you, for this will have 
been the first time in my life that I have spoken on that 

Now, to understand what I have been trying to do, in my 
small way, I will take you, in imagination, to India. We have 
not time to go into all the details and all the ramifications 
of the subject; nor is it possible for you to understand all the 
complexities in a foreign race, in this short time. Suffice it to 
say, I will at least try to give you a little picture of what 
India is like. 

It is like a gigantic building all tumbled down, in ruins. 
At first sight, then, there is little hope. It is a nation gone 
and ruined. But you wait and study, then you see something 
beyond that. The truth is that so long as the principle, the 
ideal, of which the outer man is the expression, is not hurt 
or destroyed, the man lives, and there is hope for that man. 
If your coat is stolen twenty times, that is no reason why you 
should be destroyed. You can get a new coat. The coat is un- 


VEDANTA For The Western World 228 

essential. The fact that a rich man is robbed does not hurt 
the vitality of the man, does not mean death. The man will 

Standing on this principle, we look in and we see what? 
India is no longer a political power; it is an enslaved race. 
Indians have no say, no voice in their own government; they 
are three hundred millions of slaves nothing more! The 
average income of a man in India is two shillings a month. 
The common state of the vast mass of the people is starva- 
tion, so that, with the least decrease in income, millions die. 
A little famine means death. So there, too, when I look on 
that side of India, I see ruin hopeless ruin. 

But we find that the Indian race never stood for wealth. 
Although they acquired immense wealth, perhaps more than 
any other nation ever acquired, yet the nation did not stand 
for wealth. It was a powerful race for ages, yet we find that 
that nation never stood for power, never went out of the 
country to conquer. Quite content within their own bound- 
aries, they never fought anybody. The Indian nation never 
stood for imperial glory. Wealth and power, then, were not 
the ideals of the race. 

What then? Whether they were wrong or right that is 
not the question we discuss that nation, among all the chil- 
dren jf men, has believed, and believed intensely, that this 
life Is not real. The real is God; and they must cling unto 
that God, through thick and thin. In the midst of their 
degradation, religion came first. The Hindu man drinks re- 
ligiously, sleeps religiously, walks religiously, marries re- 
ligiously, robs religiously. 

Did you ever see such a country? If you want to get up a 
gang of robbers, the leader will have to preach some sort of 
religion, then formulate some bogus metaphysics, and say 
that this method is the clearest and quickest way to get to 
God. Then he finds a following. Otherwise, not. That shows 
that the vitality of the race, the mission of the race is reli- 
gion; and because that has not been touched, therefore that 
race lives. 

See Rome. Rome's mission was imperial power, expansion. 
And as soon as that was touched, Rome fell to pieces, passed 
out. The mission of Greece was intellect; as soon as that was 

229 *& n Unpublished Lecture 

touched, why, Greece passed out. So in modern times, Spain, 
and all these modern countries. Each nation has a mission 
for the world. So long as that mission is not hurt, that nation 
lives, despite every difficulty. But as soon as its mission is 
destroyed, the nation collapses. 

Now, that vitality of India has not been touched yet. They 
have not given up that, and it is still strong in spite of all 
their superstitions. Hideous superstitions are there, most re- 
volting, some of them never mind. The national life-current 
is still there the mission of the race. 

The Indian nation never will be a powerful, conquering 
people never. They will never be a great political power; 
that is not their business, that is not the note India has to 
play in the great harmony of nations. But what has she to 
play? God, and God alone. She clings unto that like grim 
death. Still there is hope there. 

So then, after your analysis, you come to the conclusion 
that all these things, all this poverty and misery, are of no 
consequence the man is living still, and therefore there is 

Well! You see religious activities going on all through the 
country. I don't recall a year that has not given birth to 
several new sects in India. The stronger the current, the 
more the whirlpools and eddies. Sects are not signs of decay, 
they are a sign of life. Let sects multiply, till the time comes 
when every one of us is a sect, each individual. We need not 
quarrel about that. 

Now, take your country. (I don't mean any criticism.) Here 
the social laws, the political formation, everything, is made to 
facilitate man's journey in this life. He may live very happily 
so long as he is on this earth. Look at your streets how clean! 
Your beautiful cities! And in how many ways a man can 
make money! How many channels to get enjoyment in this 
life! But, if a man here should say, "Now look here, I shall 
sit down under this tree and meditate; I don't want to work," 
why, he would have to go to jail. See? There would be no 
chance for him at all. None. A man can live in this society 
only if he falls in line. He has to join in this rush for the 
enjoyment of good in this life, or he dies. 

Now let us go back to India. There, if a man says, "I shall 

VEDANTA For The Western World 230 

go and sit on the top of that mountain and look at the tip 
of my nose all the rest of my days," everybody says, "Go, and 
God speed to you!" He need not speak a word. Somebody 
brings him a little food; somebody else brings him a little 
cloth, and he is all right. But if a man says, "Behold, I am 
going to enjoy a little of this life," every door is closed to 

I say that the ideas of both countries are unjust. I see no 
reason why a man here should not sit down and look at the 
tip of his nose if he likes. Why should everybody here do 
just what the majority here does? I see no reason. 

Nor why, in India, a man should not have the goods of 
this life and make money. But you see how those vast mil- 
lions are forced to accept the opposite point of view by 
tyranny. This is the tyranny of the sages. This is the tyranny 
of the great, tyranny of the spiritual, tyranny of the intellec- 
tual, tyranny of the wise. And the tyranny of the wise, mind 
you, is much more powerful than the tyranny of the ig- 
norant. The wise, the intellectual, when they take to forcing 
their opinions upon others, know a hundred thousand ways 
to make bonds and barriers which it is not in the power of 
the ignorant to break. 

Now, I say that this thing has got to stop. There is no use 
in sacrificing millions and millions of people to produce one 
spiritual giant. If it is possible to make a society where the 
spiritual giant will be produced and all the rest of the people 
will be happy, as well, that is good; but if the millions have 
to be ground down, that is unjust. Better that the one great 
man should suffer for the salvation of the world. 

In every nation you will have to work through their 
methods. To every man you will have to speak in his own 
language. Now, in England or in America, if you want to 
preach religion to them, you will have to work through po- 
litical methods make organizations, societies, with voting, 
balloting, a president, and so on, because that is the lan- 
guage, the method of the Western race. On the other hand, 
if you want to speak of politics in India, you must speak 
through the language of religion. You will have to tell them 
something like this: "The man who cleans his house every 
morning will acquire such and such an amount of merit, he 

23 1 *An Unpublished Lecture 

will go to heaven, or he comes to God." Unless you put it 
that way, they won't listen to you. It is a question of lan- 
guage. The thing done is the same. But with every race, you 
will have to speak their language, in order to reach their 
hearts. And that is quite just. We need not fret about that. 

In the Order to which I belong we are called Sannyasins. 
The word means, "a man who has renounced." This is a 
very, very, very ancient Order. Even Buddha, who was 560 
years before Christ, belonged to that Order. He was one of 
the reformers of his Order. That was all. So ancient! You 
find it mentioned away back in the Vedas, the oldest book in 
the world. In old India there was the regulation that every 
man and woman, towards the end of their lives, must get out 
of social life altogether and think of nothing except God 
and their own salvation. This was to get ready for the great 
event death. So old people used to become Sannyasins in 
those early days. Later on, young people began to give up the 
world. And young people are active. They could not sit down 
under a tree and think all the time of their own death, so 
they went about preaching and starting sects, and so on. 
Thus, Buddha, being young, started that great reform. Had 
he been an old man, he would have looked at the tip of his 
nose and died quietly. 

The Order is not a church and the people who join the 
Order are not priests. There is an absolute difference be- 
tween the priests and the Sannyasins. In India, priesthood, 
like every other business in social life, is a hereditary pro* 
fession. A priest's son will become a priest, just as a car- 
penter's son will be a carpenter, or a blacksmith's son a black- 
smith. The priest must always be married. The Hindu does 
not think a man is complete unless he has a wife. An unmar- 
ried man has no right to perform religious ceremonies. 

The Sannyasins don't possess property, and they do not 
marry. Beyond that there is no organization. The only bond 
that is there is the bond between the teacher and the taught 
and that is peculiar to India. The teacher is not a man who 
comes just to teach me and I pay him so much and there it 
ends. In India it is really like an adoption. The teacher is 
more than my own father, and I am truly his child, his son 
in every respect. I owe him obedience and reverence, first, 

VEDANTA For The Western World 232 

before my own father, even; because, they say, the father 
gave me this body, but he showed me the way to salvation, 
he is greater than father. And we carry this love, this respect 
for our teacher all our lives. And that is the only organiza- 
tion that exists. I adopt my disciples. Sometimes the teacher 
will be a young man and the disciple a very old man. But 
never mind, he is the son and he calls me "Father" and I 
have to address him as my son, my daughter, and so on. 

Now, I happened to get an old man to teach me, and he 
was very peculiar. He did not go much for intellectual schol- 
arship, scarcely studied books; but when he was a boy he was 
seized with the tremendous idea of getting truth direct. First 
he tried by studying his own religion. Then he got the idea 
that he must get the truth of other religions; and with that 
idea he joined all the sects, one after the other. For the time 
being, he did exactly what they told him to do lived with 
the devotees of these different sects in turn, until inter- 
penetrated with the particular ideal of that sect. After a few 
years he would go to another sect. When he had gone 
through with all that, he came to the conclusion that they 
were all good. He had no criticism to offer to any one; they 
are all so many paths leading to the same goal. And then he 
said: "That is a glorious thing, that there should be so many 
paths, because if there were only one path, perhaps it would 
suit only an individual man. The more the number of paths, 
the more the chance for every one of us to know the truth. 
If I cannot be taught in one language, I will try another, and 
so on." Thus his benediction was for every religion. 

Now, all the ideas that I preach are only an attempt to 
echo his ideas. Nothing is mine originally, except the wicked 
ones, everything I say which is false and wicked. But every 
word that I have ever uttered which is true and good, is 
simply an attempt to echo his voice. Read his life by Prof. 
Max Muller. 

Well, there at his feet I conceived these ideas. There, with 
some other young men. I was just a boy. I went there when 
I was about sixteen. Some of the other boys were still 
younger, some a little older about a dozen or more. And 
together we conceived that this ideal had to be spread. And 
not only spread, but made practical. That is to say, we must 

233 *& n Unpublished Lecture 

show the spirituality of die Hindus, the mercifulness of the 
Buddhists, the activity of the Christians, the brotherhood of 
the Mohammedans, by our practical lives. "We shall start a 
universal religion now and here/' we said. "We will not 

Our teacher was an old man who would never touch a coin 
with his hands. He took just the little food offered, just so 
many yards of cotton cloth, no more. He could never' be in- 
duced to take any other gift. With all these marvelous ideas, 
he was strict, because that made him free. The monk in 
India is the friend of the prince today, dines with him; and 
tomorrow he is with the beggar, sleeps under a tree. He 
must come into contact with everyone, must always move 
about. As the saying is, "The rolling stone gathers no moss." 
The last fourteen years of my life, I have never been for 
three months at a time in any one placecontinually rolling. 
So do we all. 

Now, this handful of boys got hold ot these ideas, and all 
the practical results that sprang out of these ideas. Universal 
religion, great sympathy for the poor, and all that, are very 
good in theory,, but one must practice. 

Then came the sad day when our old teacher died. We 
nursed him the best we could. We had no friends. Who 
would listen to a few boys, with their crank notions? Nobody. 
At least, in India, boys are nobodies. Just think of it a 
dozeu boys, telling people vast, big ideas, saying they are 
determined to work these ideas out in life. Why, everybody 
laughed. From laughter, it became serious; it became perse- 
cution. Why, the parents of the boys came to feel like spank- 
ing every one of us. And the more we were derided, the 
more determined we became. 

Then came a terrible time for me personally and for all 
the other boys as well. But to me came such misfortune! On 
the one side was my mother, my brothers. My father died at 
that time, and we were left poor. Oh, very poor, almost starv- 
ing all the time. I was the only hope of the family, the only 
one who could do anything to help them. I had to stand 
between my two worlds. On the one hand, I would have to 
see my mother and brothers starve unto death; on the other, 
I had believed that this man's ideas were for the good of 

FED ANT A For The Western World 234 

India and the world, and had to be preached and worked 
out. And so the fight went on in my mind for days and 
months. Sometimes I w6uld pray for five or six days and 
nights together, without stopping. Oh, the agony of those 
days! 1 was living in hell I The natural affections of my boy's 
heart drawing me to my family I could not bear to see those 
who were the nearest and dearest to me suffering. On the 
other hand, nobody to sympathize with me. Who would 
sympathize with the imaginations of a boy? Imaginations 
that caused so much suffering to others! Who would sympa- 
thize with me? None except one. 

That one's sympathy brought blessing and hope. She was a 
woman. Our teacher, this great monk, was married when he 
was a boy, a mere child. When he became a young man, and 
all this religious zeal was upon him, he came to see his wife. 
Although they had been married as children, they had not 
seen very much of each other until they were grown up. 
Then he came to his wife and said: "Behold, I am your hus- 
band; you have a right to this body. But I cannot live the sex 
life, although I have married you. I leave it to your judg- 
ment." And she wept an 1 said: "God speed you! The Lord 
bless you! Am I the woman to degrade you? If I can, I will 
help you. Go on in your work." 

That was the woman. The husband went on and became a 
monk, in his own way; and from a distance the wife went on 
helping as much as she could. And later, when the man had 
become a great spiritual giant, she came really, she was the 
first discipleand she spent the rest of her life taking care of 
the body of this man. He never knew whether he was living 
or dying, or anything. Sometimes, when talking, he would 
get so excited that if he sat on live charcoals he did not know 
it. Live charcoals! Forgetting all about his body, all the time. 

Well, that lady, his wife, was the only one who sympa- 
thized with the idea of those boys. But she was powerless. 
She was poorer than we were. Never mind! We plunged into 
the breach. I believed, as I was living, that these ideas were 
going to rationalise India and bring better days to many 
lands and foreign races. With that belief, came the realiza- 
tion that it is better that a few persons suffer than that such 
ideas should die out of the world. What if a mother or two 

235 *An Unpublished Lecture 

brothers die? It is a sacrifice. Let it be done. No great thing 
can be done without sacrifice. The heart must be plucked 
out and the bleeding heart placed upon the altar. Then great 
things are done. Is there any other way? None have found it. 
I appeal to each one of you, to those who have accom- 
plished any great thing. Oh, how much it has cost! What 
agony! What torture! What terrible suffering is behind every 
deed of success, in every life. You know that, all of you. 

And thus we went on, that band of boys. The only thing 
we got from those around us was a kick and a curse that 
was all. Of course, we had to beg from door to door for our 
food got hips and hawsthe refuse of everything. A piece of 
bread here and there. We got hold of a broken-down old 
house, with hissing cobras living underneath; and, because 
that was the cheapest, we went into that house and lived 

Thus we went on for some years, in the meanwhile making 
excursions all over India, trying to bring about the idea 
gradually. Ten years were spent without a ray of light! Ten 
more years! A thousand times despondency came; but there 
was one thing always to keep us hopeful the tremendous 
faithfulness to each other, the tremendous love between us. 
I have got a hundred men and women around me: if I be- 
come the devil himself tomorrow, they will say: "Here we 
are still! We'll never give you upl" That is a great blessing. 
In happiness, in misery, in famine, in pain, in the grave, in 
heaven or in hell, he who never gives me up is my friend. Is 
such friendship a joke? A man may have salvation through 
such friendship. That brings salvation, if we can love like 
that. If we have that faithfulness, why, there is the essence 
of all concentration. You need not worship any gods in the 
world if you have that faith, that strength, that love. And 
that was there with us all throughout that hard time. That 
was there. That made us go from the Himalayas to Cape 
Comorin, from the Indus to Brahmapootra. 

This band of boys began to travel about. Gradually we 
began to draw attention: ninety per cent was antagonism, very 
little of it was helpful. For we had one fault: we were boys 
in poverty and with all the roughness of boys. He who has to 
make his own way in life is a bit rough, he has not much 

VEDANTA For The Western World 236 

time to be smooth and suave and polite "my lady and my 
gentleman," and all that. You have seen that in life, always. 
He is a rough diamond, he has not much polish, he is a jewel 
in an indifferent casket. 

And there we were. "No compromise!" was the watchword. 
4 'This is the ideal and this has got to be carried out. If we 
meet the king, though we die, we must give him a bit of 
our minds; if the peasant, the same." Naturally, we met with 

But, mind you, this is life's experience: if you really want 
the good of others, the whole universe may stand against you 
and cannot hurt you. It must crumble before your power. 
You have all the power of the Lord Himself in you, if you 
are sincere and really unselfish. And those boys were that. 
They came as children, pure arid fresh from the hands of 
nature. Said our Master: "I want to offer at the altar of the 
Lord only those flowers that have not even been smelled, 
fruits that have not been touched with the fingers." The 
words of the great man sustained us all. For he saw through 
the future life of those boys that he collected from the streets 
of Calcutta, so to say. People used to laugh at him when he 
said: "You will see this boy, that boy, what he becomes.", 
His faith wrs unalterable. "Mother showed it to me. I may 
be weak, but when She says this is so She can never make 
mistakes it must be so." 

So things went on and on for ten years without any light, 
but with my health breaking all the time. It tells on the body 
in the long run: sometimes one meal at nine in the evening, 
another time a meal at eight in the morning, another after 
two days, another after three days and always the poorest 
and roughest .thing. Who is going to give to the beggar the 
good things he has? And then, they have not much in India. 
And most of the time walking, climbing snow peaks, some- 
times ten miles of hard mountain climbing, just to get a meal. 
They eat unleavened bread in India, and sometimes they 
have it stored away for twenty or thirty days, until it is 
harder than bricks; and then they will give a square of that. 
I would have to go from house to house to collect sufficient 
for one meal. And then the bread was so hard, it made my 
mouth bleed to eat it. Literally, you can break your teeth on 

237 *&** Unpublished Lecture 

that bread. Then I would put it in a pot and pour over it 
water from the riven For months and months I existed that 
way of course it was telling on the health. 

Then I thought, I have tried India; it is time for me to 
try another country. At that time your Parliament of Re- 
ligions was to be held, and someone was to be sent from 
India. I was just a vagabond, but I said, "If you send me, I 
am going. I have not much to lose, and I don't care if I lose 
that." It was very difficult to find the money, but after a long 
struggle they got together just enough to pay for my passage 
and I came. Came one or two months early, so that I found 
myself drifting about in the streets here, without knowing 

But finally the Parliament of Religions opened and I met 
kind friends, who helped me right along. I worked a little, 
collected funds, started two papers, and so on. After that I 
went over to England and worked there. At the same time I 
carried on the work for India in America, too. 

My plan for India, as it has been developed and central- 
ized, is this: I have told you of our lives as monks there, how 
we go from door to door, so that religion is brought to every- 
body without charge, except, perhaps, a broken piece of 
bread. That is why you see the lowest of the low in India 
holding the most exalted religious ideas. It is all through the 
work of these monks. But ask a man, "Who are the English? 11 
he does not know. He says perhaps, "They are the children 
of those giants they speak of in those books, are they not?" 
"Who governs you?" "We don't know." "What is the gov- 
ernment?" They don't know. But they know philosophy. It 
is a practical want of intellectual education about life on this 
earth they suffer from. These millions and millions of peo- 
ple are ready for life beyond this world is not that enough 
for them? Certainly not. They must have a better piece of 
bread and a better piece of rag on their bodies. The great 
question is, how to get that better bread and better rag for 
these sunken millions. 

First, I must tell you, there is great hope for them, because, 
you see, they are the gentlest people on earth. Not that they 
are timid. When they want to fight, they fight like demons. 
The best soldiers the English have are recruited from the 

V ED ANT A For The Western Worlj 238 

peasantry of India. Death is a thing of no importance to 
them. Their attitude is, "Twenty times I have died before, 
and I shall die many times after this. What of that?" They 
never turn back. They are not given to much emotion, but 
they make very good fighters. 

Their ipsinct, however, is to plow. If you rob them, mur- 
der them, tax them, do anything to them, they will be quiet 
and gentle, so long as you leave them free to practice their 
religion. They never interfere with the religion of others. 
"Leave us liberty to worship our gods, and take everything 
else!" That is their attitude. When the English touch them 
there, trouble starts. That was the real cause of the '57 mu- 
tinythey would not bear religious repression. The great 
Mohammedan governments were simply blown up because 
they touched the Indians' religion. 

But aside from that, they are very peaceful, very quiet, 
very gentle, and, above all, not given to vice. The absence 
of any strong drink, oh, it makes them infinitely superior to 
the mobs of any other country. You cannot compare the de- 
cency of life among the poor in India with life in the slums 
here. A slum means poverty, but poverty does not mean sin, 
indecency, and vice in India. In other countries, the oppor- 
tunities are such that only the indecent and the lazy need be 
poor. There is no reason for poverty unless one is a fool or 
a blackguardthe sort who want city life and all its luxuries. 
They won't go into the country. They say, "We are here 
with all the fun, and you must give us bread." But that is not 
the case in India, where the poor fellows work hard from 
morning to sunset, and somebody else takes the bread out of 
their hands, and their children go hungry. Notwithstanding 
the millions of tons of wheat raised in India, scarcely a grain 
passes the mouth of a peasant. He lives upon the poorest 
corn, which you would not feed to your canary birds. 

Now there is no reason why they should suffer such dis- 
tressthese people; oh, so pure and good! We hear so much 
talk about the sunken millions, and the degraded women of 
Indiabut none come to our help. What do they say? They 
say: "You can only be helped, you can only be good by ceas- 
ing to be what you are. It is useless to help Hindus." These 
people do not know the history of races. There will be no 

239 *^ n Unpublished Lecture 

more India if they change their religion and their institu- 
tions, because that is the vitality of that race. It will disap- 
pear, so, really, you will have nobody to help. 

Then there is the other great point to learn: that you can 
never help, really. What can we do for each other? You are 
growing in your own life, I am growing in my own. It is 
possible that I can give you a push in your life, knowing 
that, in the long run, all roads lead to Rome. It is a steady 
growth. No national civilization is perfect, yet. Give that 
civilization a push, and it will arrive at its own goal: don't 
strive to change it. Take away a nation's institutions, cus- 
toms and manners, and what will be left? They hold the 
nation together. 

But here comes the very learned foreign man, and he says: 
"Look here: you give up all those institutions and customs 
of thousands of years, and take my torn-fool tin pot and be 
happy." This is all nonsense. 

We will have to help each other, but we have to go one 
step farther: the first thing is to become unselfish in help. "If 
you do just what I tell you to do, I will help you. Otherwise 
not." Is that help? 

And so, if the Hindus want to help you spiritually, there 
will be no question of limitations: perfect unselfishness. I 
give, and there it ends. It is gone from me. My mind, my 
powers, my everything that I have to give, is given: given 
with the idea to give, and no more. I have seen many times 
people who have robbed half the world, and they gave 
$20,000 "to convert the heathen." What for? For the benefit 
of the heathen, or for their own souls? Just think of that. 

And the Nemesis of crime is working. We men try to hood- 
wink our own eyes. But inside the heart, He has remained, 
the real Self. He never forgets. We can never delude Him* 
His eyes will never be hoodwinked. Whenever there is any im- 
pulse of real charity, it tells, though it be at the end of a 
thousand years. Obstructed, it yet wakens, once more to burst 
like a thunderbolt. And every impulse where the motive is 
selfish, self-seeking though it may be launched forth with 
all the newspapers blazoning, all the mobs standing and 
cheeringit fails to reach the mark. 

I am not taking pride in this. But, mark you, I have told 

VEDANTA For the Western World 240 

the story of that group of boys. Today there is not a village, 
not a man, not a woman in India that does not know their 
work and bless them* There is not a famine in the land 
where these boys do not plunge in and try to work and res- 
cue as many as they can. And that strikes to the heart. The 
people come to know it. So help whenever you can, but mind 
what your motive is. If it is selfish, it will neither benefit 
those you help, nor yourself. If it is unselfish, it will bring 
blessings upon them to whom it is given, and infinite bless- 
ings upon you, sure as you are living. The Lord can never 
be hoodwinked The law of Karma can never be hood- 


Sri T^amakrishna, ^Modern 
Spirit y and T(eligion 



AMONGST THE STUDENTS of religion who are acquainted with 
the life of Sri Ramakrishna, perhaps only a few regard his 
life in all its phases as historically true. To these few, what 
appears to the rest as belonging to the class of legend and 
mythology becomes living spiritual truth. To them even the 
lives of Krishna, Buddha, or Christ which seem lost in the 
mist of myth and legend become true and living in the light 
of the life of Ramakrishna. But apart from these few, how- 
ever, to most people who have drunk deep of the modern 
spirit, who refuse to accept anything as true which is beyond 
the realm of their personal discoveries and thus are circum- 
scribed by their own limitations, much that is told of Sri 
Ramakrishna's life appears as legendary, and his super- 
normal experiences as fantastic, or, at best, the hallucinations 
of a disordered brain. 

A strange fact emerges here, however, which is, that 
certain people, while rejecting the supernormal experiences 
of Ramakrishna, and regarding samadhi as an hallucination, 
are the very ones who revere and honor him as a rare soul, 
nay, a man-god. As an example of such admiration one may 
cite the name of Pandit Shivanath Shastri, a most learned 
man, and contemporary of Ramakrishna, who was also one 
of the co-founders of the Sadharan Brahmo Samaj. The Pan- 
dit became a regular visitor to Ramakrishna, learning at his 
feet, and esteeming him as one of the greatest men alive. 
Yet the state of samadhi still remained to him an abnor- 


VEDANTA For The Western World 242 

In this connection one may also mention Professor Max 
Muller, and Romain Holland, biographers of Ramakrishna, 
and two of the greatest thinkers of our age. They were at- 
tracted to and admired the superior spiritual genius of the 
man Ramakrishna, yet viewed many of the incidents of his 
life as legendary, and some of his spiritual experiences as 
delusions, or mental aberrations. 

Let us, therefore, analyze why there is this contradiction in 
the estimation of Ramakrishna; why he is accepted as a spir- 
itual genius by those very people who at the same time reject 
some of the most important experiences of his life experi- 
ences which made him what he was. Is it true that Sri Rama 
krishna had to pass through a "period of hallucination . . 
whence his spirit was to rise in the fullness of joyous anc 
harmonious power to mighty realizations for the benefit o 
humanity" as Romain Rolland says; or may it be that th< 
modern man sees these contradictions in Ramakrishna's life 
only because he himself is the product of an age which ha 
failed in the understanding of, and application to life, of th< 
true spirit of religion? 

To find an adequate answer, let us examine more closely 
this modern age and its reactions to the standards of religion, 
then we shall better be able to consider whether it, rightly 
or wrongly evaluates the life of this great saint. 

The modern spirit can be defined as utilitarian and ra- 
tionalistic or scientific. The history of the last four hundred 
years in Europe, since the age of the renaissance, marks the 
attempt at progress politically, economically, socially and in- 
tellectually from the standpoint of utilitarianism. The world 
today, however, is rudely shaken by the confusion that it is 
facing in every phase of life and human activity. The basic 
structure upon which we built the civilization of the West 
seems to be hopelessly collapsing. And we ask ourselves, 
"Have we progressed?" or, are we not moving in a circle 
within an "endless whirl of vain appearances." 

Though many of us are aware of the failure of the utili- 
tarian standard, and though we may admit, as we face the 
stark reality of events in the history of the world, that there 
has been no real progress, yet again, we cling in substance 

243 $ rt Ratnakrishna, ^Modern Spirit y and Religion 

tenaciously to the same philosophy of utilitarianism and of 
progress. For the basic philosophy of the Western world is 
still the philosophy of flux. Life is ever changing, life is ever 
progressingthis is the cry of today. That there is an un- 
changeable reality, that there is "one in the many," that there 
is a supreme goal attained in life these fundamental truths 
are completely ignored by the man in the street as well as by 
the progressive philosophers and thinkers of today. The re- 
sult is that the modern man rests content with this world; 
to him this world is all. He knows only life on earth and 
goodness and happiness are limited to creature comforts. In 
short earthly life is the object and sole purpose of all his 
struggles and actions. Even his religion is made subservient 
to fulfil his purpose on earth. 

This last statement, of course, does not apply to Chris- 
tianity in its original form. The central idea in the teachings 
of Christ, like all true religions, is the evanescence of earthly 
life, and the transcendent reality of God, the one unchange- 
able Being above all the changes of life. So my remarks in 
this essay do not apply to those devout Christians who hav- 
ing realized the vanities of earthly life live in constant com- 
munion with God. 

But this "other-worldly" attitude of Christ and Chris- 
tianity has been largely discarded by the West in her inter- 
pretation of the teachings of Jesus as something impractical 
and useless. To make Christianity practical to the modern 
man, it has been identified with humanitarianism and social 
service. The religion of the majority of the intellectuals of 
today is doing good to and loving one another! True, they 
profess faith in God, but to them such a faith is only a means 
to inspire mankind to live harmoniously and happily on 
earth. This attitude has so permeated all strata of society, 
that it has become an accepted goal, so much so, that by 
now my readers will be asking themselves, what is wrong 
with this ideal? Should not religion inspire man to love and 
serve humanity? 

Bear patiently with me for a moment. I am not saying that 
the ideal of service and love is wrong; merely the fact that 
religion has been identified exclusively with this conception; 

VEDANTA For The Western World 244 

and with such completeness that some theologians go so far 
as to say that God needs our help to straighten this world 
and its affairs. 

Thus there is no gainsaying that the religion of today may 
be termed humanist ethics. The other day I read how a well- 
known modern thinker (I am sorry to admit, he is an Indian 
but a disciple of the modem West) remarked that commu- 
nism as he has seen it in Russia is the true practical religion, 
for it does not merely believe in doing good, but it actually 
helps and does good to mankind. It is not that I have any- 
thing against communism, or as a matter of fact against any 
form of government. It is not within my sphere to judge any 
system. But to identify any existing form of government with 
religion is going too far. And the reason for this misunder- 
standing is that religion has been identified with humanist 

Does not modern Christianity teach adoration of God, a relationship with God? Certainly it does,. But to 
what extent? Is it only "tinged by emotion," to borrow a 
phrase of Matthew Arnold? If the modern man prays at all, 
his prayer consists of petitions to enrich himself on earth, 
and he hands God over a few thanks for allowing him to live 
on earth. In short he professes faith in God but does not care 
to devote himself to Him, nor does he care to understand the 
words of Jesus when he said: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy 
God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all 
thy mind." In fact, if a modern man dares to love God with 
the intensity that Christ speaks of he will be considered a 
spiritual freak. 

I have defined Western religion as humanist ethics. This 
ethical life of the majority of the intellectuals of today is, 
however, guided by customs and social behavior, external to 
himself. Stress is laid not upon self-control, or inner check, 
with a view to regenerating one's own self, but upon external 
decorum. Truly has it been remarked by Antoine De Riva- 
rol: "People mein nowadays by a philosopher not the man 
who learns the great art of mastering his passions or adding 
to his insight, but the man who has cast off prejudices with- 
out acquiring virtues/' 

Now the question is, do not religions teach service to man- 

245 $ r * Ramakrishnay ^Modern Spirit, and Religion 

kind, love for one another? Is it not a fact that the lives of 
Buddha, Christ, Ramakrishna and other spiritual souls have 
been the inspiration in every age to deeds of love and benefit 
to humanity? Very true. They were the inspirers; for who 
could have been drawn to such great ones if their deep love 
for mankind were not seen? Their very lives were sacrifices 
on the altar of God as humanity. Pandit Shivanath, though 
he denounced the samadhi of Ramakrishna, yet was attracted 
to him for his great love, his great sympathy and toleration. 
Romain Rolland saw how the spirit of Ramakrishna rose "in 
the fullness of joyous and harmonious power to mighty 
realizations for the benefit of humanity." Ramakrishna's 
heart indeed bitterly wept at the suffering and ignorance of 
mankind. The disciple Vivekananda, the torch bearer of his 
master's message, said that he did not even care for his own 
liberation if only he could give liberation to one individual 
soul. Christ died on the cross for suffering humanity. Buddha 
denied himself the throne of a mighty kingdom that he 
could bring eternal life to mankind. Indeed the lives of spir- 
itual men and women bring immense blessings to all. 

But the question still remains, what kind of benefit and 
blessings do these great ones bring? Are they philanthropists, 
and are their lives devoted to social, political and economic 
regeneration? In short, are they interested in our world and 
its affairs? The modern man will undoubtedly see in a Christ, 
a Buddha, or a Ramakrishna a lover of humanity, and a 
philanthropist, and thus appreciate these spiritual giants. 
But such appreciation is misinterpretation. This may appear 
to many a very strange and rather bold statement. Never- 
theless the fact remains that all spiritual souls know that this 
world is a vanishing dream. They know that they are "not of 
this world." Thus they are interested neither in the world 
nor straightening its affairs. But what they are concerned 
about is you and me and every individual. Not to do us any 
earthly good, not to give us the taste of life that ends in 
death, not to give us happiness that lasts for a moment; but 
their concern is to lead us to that life which is eternal, to that 
joy which knows no sorrow, to that knowledge which brings 
liberation. They give their life-blood for humanity that man 
may wake up from his dream of ignorance of an earthly life 

VEDANTA For The Western World 246 

and be born in the life in spirit. Therefore, such spiritual 
souls are by no means humanists in the sense of those who 
believe that "this world is all and we mpst rest content 
with it." 

In the words of Swami Vivekananda the world is like a 
"dog's curly tail." You straighten it and it curls again; which 
does not mean that we are to be indifferent to the world's 
sufferings any more than these great ones were indifferent. 

As they were not humanists in the accepted sense, what 
may we ask is their attitude to this problem? Vivekananda 
taught man to serve man as God. To quote the words of 
Christ: "For inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of 
these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." This teaching 
of Christ is often quoted to inspire people to philanthropy 
and humanitarian works. Emphasis is laid upon doing and 
not upon the attitude with which we do. And that makes a 
world of difference. <4 Ye have done it unto me" thus Christ 
taught us to worship God in suffering humanity. The object, 
the ideal is to worship God, to serve Him. The building of 
hospitals and schools, and feeding the poor, are but means to 
that end. The modern man takes up the means as an end; the 
ideal is completely forgotten. Sri Ramakrishna once said to a 
rich disciple of his, who was bent upon philanthropy: "If 
you see God, would you ask Him to build hospitals and 
schools?" About Vidyasagar, who was well-known for his hu- 
manitarian work and was literally regarded as "the ocean of 
kindness," Sri Ramakrishna remarked: "That man does not 
know that he has the jewel within himself. When he knows 
it, his work in the outside world will drop away from him." 

In this connection it would be interesting to pass a few 
remarks on the philanthropic and social service that the 
Ramakrishna Mission is doing in India and which the 
intelligentsia and visitors to India speak of highly. They 
recognize and praise our work as a great philanthropic 
deed. The monks of the Ramakrishna Order are regarded by 
many, who do not know our inner attitude, as great humani- 
tarians. But the fact is, none of the monks of the Rama- 
krishna Order regards himself as a humanitarian. His one 
ideal in life is to know God, and he knows that worship and 
meditation are the means to that end. When he is engaged 

247 $ r * Ramakrishnay ^Modern Spirit y and Religion 

in the service of man he knows he is worshipping God. 
Which brings to my memory a very interesting incident 
which throws light on the subject. A young disciple of 
Swami Vivekananda, being inspired by the ideals of renunci- 
ation and service, devoted himself to the nursing of the sick 
and helping of the poor. From a very humble beginning his 
work grew into a huge organization. The disciple was the 
head of the institution for many years, which is one of the 
largest homes of service in India under the Ramakrishna 
Mission. Swami Brahmananda, an immediate disciple of 
Ramakrishna, and who was the leader of the Ramakrishna 
Mission at that time, kept watch over the spiritual progress 
of all the disciples and monks of the Order. When Swami 
found out that to this disciple, who was the head of the home 
of service, work became more important, he relieved him of 
his duties and sent him away to practice austerities and live 
exclusively the life of 'meditation. I record this incident here 
to point out that the ideal of the Ramakrishna Mission has 
been from its inception to help man to attain God, to help 
him to be devoted to God and be absorbed in His love and 
knowledge. Service to mankind is the worship of God, and 
as such is a means to that end. Therefore, serving man, let us 
not forget that this is but a form of worship. 

Now let me ask those who preach brotherly love and forget 
to love God with all their heart, soul and mind, why is it 
that in spite of this teaching of love for mankind and service 
to humanity, when it actually comes to living, it does not 
work? How is it that though one may sincerely wish to love 
the world, the reaction is the complete opposite, despite one's 
will to the contrary? And man finds, by his contact with peo- 
ple, that the ideal of universal love is not practical. Yet as he 
looks at the lives of Christ or Buddha or Ramakrishna he 
finds that they had this love in their hearts and to them it was 
practical. To take an illustration from the life of Sri Rama- 
krishna: There were times in his life when he would feel 
that treading the grass, the very grass itself would be hurt; 
for he saw everywhere the one life, his own Self. One time a 
boatman was severely beaten by a cruel person and Rama- 
krishna cried out: "Ohl how painful!" and the disciples saw 
marks of the beating on Ramakrishna's person. Can we feel 

VEDANTA For The Western World 248 

such unity? Can we feel for humanity that way? We admire 
this love, we want to imitate such lives; but in practice we 
fail. And why? 

Today the philosopher and the man in the street talk 
about unity and expansion; and they try to reach this unity 
by expanding themselves, as it were, into space. But they 
fail. To attain unity with all beings and to love humanity, 
two things are needed which the modern man and thinker 
lack. The first is the check of inner passion, or self-control; 
and the second is the art of diving deep within one's own 
soul; in other words, the following of the first commandment 
of Christ, which is to love God with all one's soul, heart and 
mind. Shun ego or selfishness and learn to dive deep within 
yourself, for the Kingdom of God is within your own soul; 
then you find that it is the same God dwelling in the hearts 
of all. Universal love is thus attained, for "in that realiza- 
tion," to quote the words of the Upanishads, "you know that 
the one Self has become all." (Yashmin Sarvani bhutani At- 
maibabhut vijanatah.) "Love thy neighbor as thyself," be- 
cause thy neighbor is thine own Self. Know this Self. 

Herein lies the cause of man's confusion. Emerson hit the 
nail on the head when he said: 

"There are two laws discrete 
Not reconciled 
Law for man, and law for thing; 
The last builds town and fleet, 
But it runs wild. 
And doth the man unking." 

The superficial humanists of today who regard this world 
as important, and earthly pursuits as paramount, by seeing 
man merely as a physical and mental being, know only of the 
"law for things" and are ignorant of the "law for man." 
For they ignore the truth that there lies in man something 
more real, something greater than is apparent in his every- 
day consciousness; they forget that there is the Self in man, 
the Spiritual presence, which is the source of life, thought 
and consciousness. And thus in the phraseology of Emerson 
they "un-king the man." 

Because of the ignorance of the Spiritual presence in man, 

249 ^ r * Ramakrishna, ^Modern Spirit, and Religion 

the moderns have no supreme purpose, no ideal or goal, in 
life. And as such life to them has become meaningless, and 
meaningless it will remain so long as they take the physical 
self as the real man and earthly pursuits as the be all and end 
all of life. The hunger for the eternal, the immortal longings 
have thus been stifled by them. True it is that preachers of 
religions ask man to look forward to eternity in the midst of 
his earthly pursuits, but this looking forward is an expecta- 
tion to achieve the kingdom of God after he has lived his 
allotted time on earth. Though they may quote every day 
the teachings of Christ that the "Kingdom of God is within" 
and "is come nigh unto you/' many do not believe that it can 
be attained while living on earth. The result is that the 
"Kingdom of heaven" has begun to be looked upon as a 
grandma's story. 

To understand the true spirit of any religion and to ap- 
preciate the greatness of teachers like Christ, Buddha, or 
Ramakrishna, there is one thing most important which we 
must know and recognize and which unfortunately the mod- 
ern thinker, as I have just mentioned, does not know and 
believe; and it is just this: that there is a supreme purpose, 
a supreme goal, which can be achieved in life, "having at- 
tained which no other acquisition seems of any value" (Gita). 
The immortal longing of mankind is expressed in the prayer 
of the Upanishads: "Lead us from the unreal to the real; 
lead us from the darkness to light; lead us from death to 
immortality." The immortal longing of humanity is to at- 
tain the "eternal amongst the non-eternals of life, the abid- 
ing, infinite joy in the midst of the fleeting pleasures of life" 
(Upanishads). And we must know that this longing can really 
be satisfied on earth. The greatness of a spiritual soul lies in 
the fact that he has achieved this reality. The central theme 
of all true religions, and of all philosophy of life, in one 
Sanskrit word, is jivanmukti, which can be interpreted as 
liberation in life, tasting the bliss of Brahman, or attaining 
the Kingdom of God. Liberation from the bondages of life, 
the Kingdom of God, is not a far-off ideal which may or may 
not be realized after death, but it is perfection to be attained 
on this earth, while living in the body, moving and acting 
apparently like all ordinary human beings. "On this earth, 

VEDANTA For the Western World 250 

the mortal becomes immortal," says the Katha Upanishad. 
In the words of Christ: "But whosoever drinketh of the 
water that I shall give him . . . shall be in him a well of 
water springing up into everlasting life." Buddha says: 
"Verily I say unto thee, the Tathagata lives in the pure land 
of eternal bliss even now while he is still in the body." Sam- 
kara, in his commentary on the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 
writes: "One attains Brahman; and he attains It here on 
earth and not after death of the body." (Ihaiva Brahmaiva 
san Brahma apyeti na sharira patat uttarakalam.) 

Is it then any wonder that man should worship Christ, 
Buddha, or Ramakrishna as embodiments of Godhead who 
not only had attained this liberation in life and entered the 
Kingdom of God but could give that liberation to others by 
their touch? In our modern times we have witnessed the 
lives of the disciples of Ramakrishna who as they came to 
the Master testified how their bonds of ignorance were sev- 
ered and how they were illumined by his grace, by a mere 

All true religions and all spiritual teachers worth the name 
are emphatic in pointing out that the one and only purpose 
of human life and existence is to attain moksha or liberation, 
which is the same as perfection and which is attained by 
entering the Kingdom of God within. "Be ye perfect/' says 
Christ. "You are complete in Godhead," comments St. Paul. 

All spiritual wisdom in the world tells man that he can 
consciously unite himself with the divine while living in this 
body and thus may attain perfection. For in each man is 
God concealed. Purity, freedom, illumination, peace, perfec- 
tion are all identical with the immortal Self which only re- 
mains to be uncovered. "As people ignorant of a golden 
treasure that has been hidden underground may walk over 
it again and again and yet never find it, so all beings, though 
every moment living in Brahman, never find him, for he is 
hidden by a covering of ignorance. . . . Brahman is the Self 
within, untouched by any deed, ageless, and deathless, free 
from grief, free from hunger and thirst. The etheric center 
within the heart, where dwells Brahman, is like a boundary 
which separates That from the mundane world. Day and 
night do not cross that boundary, nor old age, nor death; 

251 'Sri Ramakrishna> ^Modern Spirit y and Religion 

neither grief, nor pleasure, nor good deeds, nor evil deeds 
reach That. All evil shuns That, because That is free and 
can never be touched by any impurity." * 

St. Augustine wrote: "I, Lord, went wandering like a 
strayed sheep, seeking tliee with anxious reasoning without, 
whilst thou wast within me. ... I went round the streets and 
squares of the city of this world seeking thee, and I found 
thee not, because in vain I sought without for him who was 
within myself." 

To seek for the perfection in Godhead, to seek for the 
truth that gives us freedom, is to seek for our true Self. Re- 
ligion is not anything extraneous to ourselves that we have 
to acquire, neither is it something which we may or may not 
believe, but it is something living in the soul of each man. 
And as no man can jump out of himself, so no man can free 
himself from this living religion. Only it remains hidden in 
most men and it awaits their finding. Mother Nature, how- 
ever, is patient and she gradually leads each man by the hand 
to awaken in him ultimately that which is his birthright. 
Man may incarnate again and again until he has learned his 
lesson and is awakened to the worth, the golden treasure, the 
Kingdom of God which lies within the depths of his own 

The man who loves and worships God as separate from 
himself really gives devotion to Him who is the Self within. 
The followers of the path of Love worship God as Father, 
Mother, Friend, or Beloved. All Hindu worshippers know, 
however, that God whom they love and worship dwells 
within the Shrine of their own hearts. They call him de- 
habhritam atmathe Self hidden within the body. St. Augus- 
tine was aware of it as also are other true Christian devotees. 
What is this Self which is identical with Brahman? A distinc- 
tion should be made between the apparent, phenomenal 
self, and the real Self, which is divine. The Katha Upanishad 
which I quote here clearly explains the philosophy of Self: 

"Both the individual self and the universal Self, the At- 
man, have entered the cave of the heart, the supreme abode 
of the Most High. Of these the former enjoys the pleasures 
within the realm of the body. The knower of Brahman, to- 

IChandogya Upanishad. 

VEDANTA For The Western World 252 

gether with the householders who observe the fire sacrifices, 
sees a difference between them as between the darkness and 
the light. 

"Of the two selvesthe illusory or individual self, of 
which all are aware, and the real Self, which few know it is 
as unchangeable being that the real Self is first recognized. 
He who has recognized it as unchangeable being to him will 
be revealed its innermost nature. 

"That which is awake in us even while we are asleep, 
shaping (in dream) many objects of desire, That indeed is 
pure, That is Brahman, and That verily is called Immortal. 
All the worlds have their beings in That and none can tran- 
scend That. That is the Immortal Self. 

"As fire, though one, filling the world, takes the shape of 
each object it burns, so the indwelling Self in all, though 
one, takes the form of each object it fills, yet transcends all. 

"As air, though one, filling the world, takes the shape of 
each object it enters, so the indwelling Self in all, though 
one, takes the form of each object it fills, yet transcends all. 

"As the sun, the revealer of all objects to the seer, is not 
touched by the sinful eye nor by the impurities of objects it 
gazes upon, so the one Self, dwelling in all, is not touched by 
the miseries of the world. For He transcends all. 

"He is One, the Lord, the innermost Self of all; of one 
form he makes many forms. The wise man who sees Him 
revealed in his own soul, to him belongs eternal happiness; 
to none else, to none else. 

"The eternal among non-eternals, the intelligence of the 
intelligent, He, though one, fulfills the desires of many. The 
wise man who sees Him revealed in his own soul, to him 
belongs eternal peace; to none else, to none else." 

The immortal longing of man is thus realized in his own 
being, which is the one Self of the universe the God we 
seek. "Town and fleet" are not eternal. They live and die. 
Man must live and struggle for that which is eternal in him. 

We offer our deep homage to Christ, Buddha, or Rama- 
krishna not because of their accomplishments in the external 
world of which they had practically none but because of 
their attainment. They were the children of Light; they be- 
came one with the Light. 


St. Francis and Sri T^tnakrishna 


WHILE READING the "Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna," a truly 
remarkable book which brings so vividly before our eyes 
the figure of the great Indian saint, I was continually re- 
minded of tht purest, the gentlest, the most beloved and lov- 
able of all the Christian saints, Francis of Assisi. There is a 
striking similarity between these two divine men who belong 
to different ages, different races and different faiths; a simi- 
larity which is most illuminating as it proves the funda- 
mental unity of true Religion. 

They both seem to have had the same mission in this 
world. They were not founders of a new religion, but rather 
revivers and restorers of the Eternal Faith in an all-pervading 
God who can and must be realized in our earthly life. They 
were "living embodiments of godliness/' as Mahatma Gandhi 
says of Ramakrishna, or, to use a beautiful expression of one 
of St. Francis' biographers, they were "perfect images of God 
in the mirror of humanity.*' St. Francis, at the beginning of 
the thirteenth century, was the Saviour of the Christian 
church, then on the verge of collapse, threatened outwardly 
by the struggle with the Emperor and inwardly by corrup- 
tion, dissension and heresy; and he saved the Christian re- 
ligion simply by living the Gospel of Christ in a spirit of 
obedience, of purity and love. Ramakrishna, during the latter 
part of the nineteenth century, played the "noble role of the 
Saviour of the Eternal Religion of India, and fulfilled the 
spiritual aspirations of three hundred millions of Hindus for 
the last two thousand years." They both had followers: St. 
Francis founded a religious order which spread rapidly all 
over the world, exercised an incalculable influence on West- 
ern civilization and is still flourishing after more than seven 
centuries. Sri Ramakrishna had a number of devoted disciples 


VEDANTA For The Western World 254 

who, after the death of the Master, renounced the world and 
formed a monastic order which is spreading over land and 
sea, bringing the message of India to Europe and America, 
and helping towards the spiritual unity of mankind. 

When we consider these two great Teachers in their 
human aspect, we find that they both had the purity and the 
simplicity of a child. It was the child in them that gave them 
their irresistible charm, their instinctive ability of winning 
the hearts of those around them. They never lost the sublime 
naivet of childhood; they were happy natures always de- 
sirous to share their joys with others. They were also intel- 
lectually simple; they were not scholars and did not attach 
any importance to learning; on the contrary they sometimes 
looked upon it as an obstacle to God. Ramakrishna was an 
almost illiterate man and was always telling his disciples not 
to waste time in reasoning and worldly knowledge. Francis, 
in an age of great theologians, was not a man of great cul- 
ture; true knowledge for him consisted in being, not in pos- 
sessing intellectual learning. I do not mean to say that these 
two supreme religious Masters were ignorant men; they had 
a marvelous spiritual intelligence, and possessed the divine 
wisdom that comes from the love of God. And they never 
attacked learning. Francis was most respectful to the Doctors 
of the Church, and when compelled to relinquish the active 
leadership of the Order, he chose as his successor a man 
thoroughly versed in theology and canon law. He did not 
scorn culture; he merely felt that it was impossible for one 
to be devoted both to the pursuit of learning and to the 
cultivation of the mystical side of one's nature. Moreover, 
among his followers were some of the famous scholars of his 
age, and he became the inspirer of the greatest of poets, 
Dante, and of one of the supreme artists of all times, Giotto, 
both of whom painted for us, one in exquisite lines and the 
other in marvelous frescoes, the life of their spiritual master. 
Ramakrishna, though he was not a cultivated man and took 
no interest in science and philosophy, had among his dearest 
friends some learned pundits and teachers; and his most be- 
loved disciple, Narendra universally known under his mo- 
nastic name of Swami Vivekananda whom he chose to cany 

255 $* Francis and Sri Ramakrishna 

on his teaching and to bring his message to the Western 
world, was one of the most brilliant and scholarly minds of 
our time. 

St. Francis believed that the greatest obstacles to God were 
lust and greed, which Ramakrishna so vividly personified in 
"woman and gold"; and he founded his Order on chastity, 
poverty and obedience. It is in the interpretation of these 
spiritual rules that the medieval Italian and the modern 
Hindu masters reveal their likeness. Chastity for St. Francis 
is not simply a negative virtue, the refraining from lust; and 
it is much more than a mode of living; chastity is the broaden- 
ing of the scope of life so as to take in the whole world. It is 
carnal passion that fetters love. No one who looks back on 
his own life, can fail to realize what vast stores of enthusiasm, 
faith and gaiety are dissipated through the betrayal of our 
senses. Francis, in the vow of chastity, saw the means of pre- 
serving for, or of restoring to oneself the purity, the in- 
tensity and the independence of the child who is always free 
to pursue any object of his affections. Also for Ramakrishna 
chastity was much more than abstinence from carnal love. 
"To me," he used to say over and over again, "every woman 
is a mother." And the image of a mother, the idea of mother- 
hood lifted his mind to the vision of the Divine Mother, 
Kali, to whom he was completely devoted. 

Poverty for the Italian saint was not simply renunciation 
of earthly riches and power. No one saw more clearly than 
St. Francis how most of us are slaves to money, whether we 
possess it or not, and how the accumulation of riches cor- 
rupts the soul more than anything else; for him riches and 
fetters are synonymous. But it is most important to under- 
stand that for Francis poverty was a spiritual attitude, not a 
material state. Fidelity to poverty signified for him the nega- 
tion of all desire for worldly honour or bodily comfort, since 
thus alone was the soul's freedom to be secured. The external 
sacrifice was a mere symbol of the inward renunciation. It 
was not only a casting away of worldly encumbrance for a 
life of liberty, it was a shedding of spiritual obstructions for 
the soul's union with God. Ramakrishna undoubtedly had 
the same understanding of the great spiritual meaning of 

VEDANTA For The Western World 256 

The vow of obedience, which has as its symbol a yoke, 
serves not to fetter, but to free the soul. It is only through 
spiritual obedience that one can attain complete freedom 
from the illusion of our ego. Just as moral freedom is the re- 
sult of our obedience to reason, so spiritual freedom, the 
surrender of our individual self, comes to us only through 
renunciation of our personal will and obedience to the will 
of God. Francis saw very clearly how necessary it is for all 
who seek union with God to be humble, to trust Divine 
Providence, to obey their spiritual guide. Ramakrishna, in 
his talks with his disciples, continually reminds them that 
they cannot attain divine wisdom without the help and the 
guidance of a Guru, and that they must obey their Master 
completely, with the same trust that a child has for his 
mother. It is, however, in another trait of their nature that 
these two great Masters revealed their wonderful likeness; 
both were unconsciously supreme religious artists. An Eng- 
lish biographer of the Italian saint rightly emphasizes this 
quality of St. Francis. "Probably the particular human qual- 
ity" he says, "in which Francis lives with the modern world, 
is as a supreme religious artist, with an exquisite sensibility 
as to spiritual value and a unique power of dramatic self- 
expression. All through his life he is either the hero of epi- 
sodes that seize the imagination and impress themselves 
indelibly upon the memory, or he is uttering parables or 
inventing images, which no one, having read or heard them, 
can easily forget. It is manifest he had all the shining virtues: 
courage and humility, love and purity, joy and compassion, 
courtesy and holiness; so had other saints. It is in the expres- 
sion of these qualities that he excels them all. No human 
soul so bright as his ever shone out so clearly through the 
fleshly veil; there seems to be an actual radiance about him. 
By reason of this heavenly quality he ranks with the great 
poets as the creator of the common imagination of mankind; 
and the simple stories of his life take their place in the 
world's literature with those of Dante and the Bible," Rama- 
krishna shared with Francis this divine quality; he was a 
poet at heart and he explained to his disciples the deepest 
truths of religion, not in an abstruse, philosophic language, 

257 $* Francis and Sri Ramakrishna 

but by using, with idling effect, simple and homely parables 
and images full of charm and beauty. 

They both loved music and song, because, living in direct 
communion with God, only in song they could express, at 
least in part, the ecstatic love and the unutterable joy that 
filled their hearts. Ecstatic love and joy is probably the near- 
est description we ca*i give of the plane of consciousness on 
which they lived. Ramakrishna saw God in everything, in 
the loftiest and noblest as well as in the humblest and mean- 
est form; he believed in the Absolute, indivisible and form- 
less, but he loved His manifested world the lila, with its 
infinite variety of created forms. He especially loved and 
worshipped Kali, the Divine Mother, a living reality for him, 
full of compassion and tenderness for all; and it was through 
this all-permeating and embracing love for every single mani- 
festation of God, that he attained union with the Absolute. 
He used to sing many times a day hymns of praise to God 
and chant His name and glory, and he used to ask his devo- 
tees and his visitors to join in the songs, and, almost invar- 
iably, while singing or listening to a beautiful song, he 
entered samadhi, communion with God. 

Among the many songs recorded in "The Gospel of Sri 
Ramakrishna/' there is one, especially dear to the Master 
who loved to sing it while dancing in a circle with his dis- 
ciples, which recalls to our minds the Italian saint, as it is 
full of the Franciscan spirit: 

In Wisdom's firmament the moon of Love is rising full 
And Love's flood- tide, in surging waves, is flowing everywhere. 
O Lord, how full of bliss Thou art! Victory unto Thee! 

On every side shine devotees, like stars around the moon; 
Their Friend, the Lord All-merciful, joyously plays with 

Behold! the gates of paradise today are open wide. 

The soft spring wind of the New Day raises fresh waves of 


Gently it carries to the earth the fragrance of God's love, 
Till all the yogis, drunk with bliss, are lost in ecstasy. 

VEDANTA For The Western World 258 

Upon the sea of the world unfolds the lotus of the New Day, 
And there the Mother sits enshrined in blissful majesty. 
See how the bees are mad with joy, sipping the nectar theret 

Behold the Mother's radiant face, which so enchants the heart 
And captivates the universe! About Her Lotus Feet 
Bands of ecstatic holy men are dancing in delight. 

What matchless loveliness is Hers! What infinite content 
Pervades the heart when She appears! O brothers, says 

I humbly beg you, one and all, to sing the Mother's praise! 

Francis would have loved this beautiful song; it has some- 
thing in common with his great hymn: "Laudes Creatur- 
arum," the Praises of Creatures. Francis was a born poet. As 
a young man, before his conversion, he loved the trouba- 
dours' songs, which he probably learnt from the lips of his 
mother, who was French by birth; later on, after he had re- 
nounced the world, he went on singing; no longer the praise 
of woman, but of God. Among his followers there was a 
brother who, before he entered the Order, had been a trou- 
badour; and it was he who set to music the songs that Francis 
composed, so that the brethren might chant them morning 
and night in praise of God. Of all his songs, the most famous 
and the only one that has been preserved to us in its com- 
plete form, is the "Hymn of Created Things," a poem be- 
yond the realms of art, in which one senses immediately the 
simplicity and spirituality of the author. It was composed 
shortly after Francis had attained the highest state of sa- 
madhi, the complete realization of God, of which he bore a 
visible sign in the stigmata. "I will make a new song," he 
said to his brethren; "a praise of all creatures which daily 
minister to us and without which we could not live, and 
among which man much offendeth his Creator by reason of 
his gross ingratitude, though in the midst of so much grace 
and benefit." Thomas of Celano, his first biographer, says 
that he invited the Creatures and the Elements to praise God, 
their Creator, in certain verses that he composed after the 
manner of the Benedicite. The title of the poera explains 

259 $* Fw*cis and Sri Ratnakrishna 

the aim: it is the praises of the Creatures, and not merely the 
praise of man for them; and the Creatures consist of the 
heavenly bodies and the four elements. To these praises, 
which form the main body of the hymn, Francis added later 
on two brief stanzas, one in praise of those who suffer in 
peace all human infirmities, and the other, composed just 
before his passing away, in praise of bodily death. This beau- 
tiful hymn, which expresses in a naive and moving way the 
true religious spirit, and which, I recall with deep emotion, 
was chosen at the World Congress of Religion held in Lon- 
don in the summer of 1931 as the one song that representa- 
tives of all creeds would gladly sing together in praise of 
God, has been often misunderstood by modern interpreters. 
The majority of the students of St. Francis believe that for 
him the heavenly bodies and the elements were brothers and 
sisters of man: our brother sun, our sister moon, and so on; 
which is not correct. Only one verse of the poem contains the 
possessive pronoun "our," and that is in the praise of mother 
Earth, "our mother," as he calls her, and not "our sister," be- 
cause she could not be both. For Francis "our brothers and 
sisters" were the animals, especially the birds, the larks above 
all, to which he used to preach and which he dearly loved 
because they soar up into the sky and express in their song 
the joy of life and their gratitude to the Creator. The heav- 
enly bodies and the elements, in Francis' poetic imagination, 
formed a divine Order which was, in a certain sense, a 
counterpart of the religious order he had founded on earth. 
It is the brethren and sisters of this higher and far more 
glorious Order that he invites to praise his Lord as men 
could not do worthily. 

Here is the hymn, which I have translated literally, hop- 
ing to preserve some of the wonderful simplicity of the 


Most High, Omnipotent, good Lord! To Thee 
The praises, the glory, the honour be! 
All blessings, Most High, befit only Thee, 
And no man is worthy to mention Thee. 

VEDANTA For The Western World 260 

Be praised, my Lord, by all Thy creatures, 

Especially by Monsignor brother Sun 

Who brings us day and through whom Thou illuminest us. 

Fair is he and radiant with great splendour; 

Of Thee, Most Hi, h, he bears significance. 

Be praised, my Lord, by sister Moon and by the Stars; 

In heaven Thou hast made them clear, precious and fair. 

Be praised, my Lord, by brother Wind, 

By air and cloud and serene sky and all weather 

By whom Thou givest sustenance to Thy creatures. 

Be praised, my Lord, by sister Water 

Who is very useful and humble, precious and chaste. 

Be praised, my Lord, by brother Fire 

By whom Thou lightenest us in the night; 

And fair is he and merry, strong and full of might. 

Be praised, my Lord, by our mother, sister Earth 
Who sustaineth and governetfi us and giveth birth 
To divers fruits, coloured flowers and herb. 

Be praised, my Lord, by those who pardon for Thy love 
And bear infirmity and tribulation; 
Blessed are they who shall endure in peace 
For by Thee, Most High, tfiey will be crowned. 

Be praised, my Lord, by sister Death-of-the-body 

From whom no living man can escape. 

Woe to them who die in mortal sin; 

Blessed tlicy who are found in Thy most holy will. 

For to them the second death will work no ill. 

Praise and bless my Lord and thankful be 
And serve my Lord with great humility. 

The ^Marriage of Sarada *Devi 


"THEY'RE GONE! Mother, all my pretty ornaments are gone! 
Oh, Mother, please where are they? I had them last night 
when I went to bed, I know I did, because I wore them right 
in bed! And now they are all gone! When you put them on 
me yesterday you said how pretty I looked; that nice man 
said I looked pretty too. Now they are gone, and I am not 
pretty any more!" Sobbing bitterly, the little Indian girl 
tugged frantically at her mother's sari, almost pulling it off 
in her grief. 

Tearfully the poor mother tried to explain what had hap- 
pened to the ornaments that had so delighted her daughter. 

4 'You see, my darling, yesterday was your wedding day, and 
when a girl becomes a bride she must always look her very 
prettiest, because it is the most important day of her life. We 
are very poor, my dearest, and had no money to buy orna- 
ments for you. Those you wore were borrowed and had to 
be returned to their owner. Your husband took them away 
from you while you were sleeping. But never mind, my 
darling, don't cry, he will buy others for you when you are 
a big girl and go to live with him." 

"Who is my husband, Mother? Was that nice man my hus- 
band? Why am I married to him? Where js he now?" But it 
was only after many years that Sarada found the answers to 
her childish questions. How could she, a child of five, under- 
stand that she had been married to a "mad priest," in the 
hope that marriage would cure his madness? 

Many years passed before the young bride saw her husband 
again, and then only for three months. But the memory of 
that association with him left an indelible stamp on her 
mind, and she spent many happy hours alone, remembering 
his gentleness and great thoughtfulness. She felt quite sure 

VEDANTA For The Western World 262 

that he would call her to his side when the proper time came, 
and until then she would wait. The years of waiting were not 
idly spent. Her earliest memories were those of helping her 
mother, who, with tireless patience taught her how to cook, 
almost is if she knew that her daughter's life would be spent 
in cooking and in the service of others. 

Gradually the gossip of the village people, and the rumors 
about her husband's insanity began to reach her ears. At first 
she fried to ignore it, until the people began to whisper 
about her as she passed. "They say he is mad!" she thought to 
herself. "They say that he has forgotten me, and that I am no 
better off than a widow! They say that all he does is shout 
the names of God and go about naked like a lunatic I Well, 
if that is really true, my place is beside him! He needs me. I 
shall go to him!" 

So it was that this shy, modest village girl defied all the 
conventions, and set out on foot to join her husband. Her 
vigil was ended. But he had not forgotten her. Rather it 
seemed that he was expecting her, and the moment she saw 
him she knew that her fears for his sanity were groundless. 
She found in him the same kindliness and saintliness that she 
had always remembered, and from the moment of their first 
meeting at Dakshineswar, Sarada Devi dedicated her life to 
the service of her husband, Sri Ramakrishna. 

During the first part of her stay with Sri Ramakrishna, 
Sarada shared with him the supreme test he was bound to 
make as her husband and as a spiritual aspirant. His Guru, 
Totapuri, had told him that a wife presented no obstacle to 
one really established in Brahman. But was he established in 
Brahman? He must find out for himself. He knew that one so 
established could see no distinction in the sexes, therefore 
the question did not arise; but, since the question had arisen 
he lost no time in putting himself to the test. Gazing at the 
sleeping form of his beautiful wife, Sri Ramakrishna boldly 
asked himself which it was he wanted, that or God, knowing 
he was free to take either. While yet discriminating, he be- 
came suddenly absorbed in Samadhi, which lasted through- 
out the night. And, later, when asked by her husband if she 
wished that their marriage be consummated, Sarada's answer 
was characteristic of her own saintliness: "Why should I wish 

263 7V* ^Marriage of Sarada *Devi 

that?" she asked, "I have come only to help you in your 
spiritual life/' 

Knowing nothing of Samadhi at that time, poor Sarada 
spent many sleepless nights watching over Sri Ramakrishna. 
Night after night he would spend absorbed in that state, and 
even though he had taught her special mantrams to repeat 
which would restore him to normal consciousness, she could 
never quite get over her anxiety for his safety. Learning of 
her fears and constant vigil, Sri Ramakrishna insisted that 
she sleep at the Nahabat, an apartment somewhat removed 
from the main building. This she did, living and sleeping 
and cooking in the one room it provided for the greater part 
of thirteen years. 

The upper room of the apartment was occupied by her 
mother-in-law, whom Sarada served with unswerving devo- 
tion as long as she lived. She was never known to have com- 
plained of her congested surroundings, which, from her own 
description, would have tried the patience of a lesser saint to 
the point of rebellion. Not only did she live, cook, and sleep 
in the same room, but as it was the only place of storage she 
had, every corner was stacked with sacks of rice and lentils 
and other provisions, while the cooking pots and pans swung 
from the ceiling which, to use her own words, "was so low 
that I used to bump my head every time I entered the room, 
until my head got used to it and would bend of itself the 
moment I entered the door. Many stout Calcutta ladies came 
to visit me, but they never came into the room!" 

Because of her extreme shyness, Sarada strictly observed 
Purdah, and to insure her privacy, a bamboo screen reaching 
above her head was erected all around the veranda. This 
made it absolutely impossible for any sunlight ever to enter 
the dark, narrow room. Yet she never complained. After a 
while she developed pains in her legs, which she admitted 
were caused by her standing for hours peeping through the 
holes she had picked in the screen through which to watch 
the fun that went on in Sri Ramakrishna's room among the 
devotees. Sri Ramakrishna knew that she did this, and always 
made a point of leaving the door of his room open whenever 
there was any fun, or dancing, or music going on there. 

One day while Sarada was massaging Sri Ramakrishna's 

VEDANTA For The Western World 264 

feet, she suddenly looked up at him and asked: "How do you 
look upon me?" A natural and utterly feminine question, to 
which he gave the astounding answer: "The Mother who is 
worshipped in the temple, and the mother who gave birth to 
this body is now massaging my feet. I look upon you as the 
very manifestation of Motherhood." And indeed, in the 
years that followed the passing away of Sri Ramakrishna, it 
was to her, their "Holy Mother," that many of his young 
monks turned for counsel and advice. It was also upon her 
decision and with her blessing that Swami Vivekananda 
sailed for America to represent Hinduism at the World's 
Parliament of Religions at Chicago in 1893. 

Sarada Devi had been staying at Dakshineswar with her 
husband about a year when one day he asked her to come to 
his room that evening at nine o'clock. She silently assented, 
asking no questions. Was not his will hers also? Had she not 
dedicated herself, heart, soul, and body to his service? Yet 
she could not help wondering what it was he wanted. It was 
such an odd hour to choose if he intended to scold her or 
instruct her in any matter, spiritual or domestic. She had 
tried always to be obedient to his teachings, and circumspect 
and right in all her conduct. Had her mother-in-law com- 
plained about anything, she wondered? If so, what? She 
seemed always to be satisfied with the food, and was never 
kept waiting, even for an instant, whenever she called, no 
matter how busy Sarada happened to be at the time. No, it 
couldn't be that. And why had he chosen this particular 
night? The whole place was alive with people and prepara- 
tions for the Kali Puja, the worship of God in the form 
of Woman, which was to be celebrated that night. Would he 
not be taking some part in that? 

All through the hours of waiting the one question "Why?" 
must have filled the mind of the young wife, and, as evening 
fell and the hour of her tryst drew nearer, surely her hands 
must have trembled as she brushed her long black hair and 
draped her red-oordered sari about her. And as she put on 
her earrings and a few of the bracelets her husband had given 
her, she probably recalled the criticism that had been made 
about her for wearing so many ornaments when her husband 
was a man of such strict renunciation! She soon learned that 

265 *fhe ^Marriage of Sarada T)evi 

it was impossible to please everybody, but even so, she never 
again wore so many at a time. 

The hour had come at last. Silently stealing through the 
crowds that had gathered in the temple grounds, Sarada 
reached her husband's room. Opening the door, she was 
amazed to see him already seated and beginning the worship 
which had been prepared beforehand. He appeared not to 
notice her arrival, and, not wishing to disturb him, she stood 
watching him as he performed the preliminary purification 
of the vessels and other things necessary for the ceremony. 
She noticed that the seat prepared for the Deity was vacant, 
and while she was vaguely wondering why, Sri Ramakrishna 
turned and motined to her to be seated there. Unquestion- 
ingly she obeyed. Like one in a dream she watched him, and 
soon her mind began to soar, until, as from a great way off 
she heard the invocation: "O Divine Mother, Eternal Virgin, 
Mistress of all powers and abode of all beauty, do Thou un- 
lock for me the gate of perfection. Sanctifying the body and 
mind of this woman, do Thou manifest Thyself through her 
and do what is auspicious." 

By the time the ritualistic part of the worship was over 
each of them had reached a state of deep absorption in which 
they realized their complete identity with Brahman, and so 
with each other. Thus was their marriage brought to its spir- 
itual consummation. 

Many hours passed before Sri Ramakrishna regained suffi- 
cient physical consciousness to enable him to complete the 
worship. When all was finished he prostrated himself to the 
embodied Deity before him, laying at her feet the fruits of 
all his years of austerities, his rosary, himself, and everything 
he owned, thereby sharing with her all his spiritual attain- 
ments, and making her a co-partner in his mission. 

And Sarada Devi, what of her? Who can say? For silently, 
as an obedient and devoted wife, she had come. Silently she 
had accepted the worship of herself as the manifestation of 
the Divine Mother whose presence had been invoked in her 
by Sri Ramakrishna. Silently through this worship she had 
attained the highest spiritual union with her husband. And 
now she had stolen away, as silently as she had come. 


The (jospel of Sri Ramakrishna 


"THE GOSPEL OF SRI RAMAKRISHNA? It's awfully long what's 
it all about? It certainly weighs enoughl And what a strange 
looking man!" 

"It's a fascinating piece of biography," I answered, "quite 
extraordinarily honest. And as for its being long, the truth 
about anyone is never dull. Try it; I don't think you'll be 
disappointed." And, I added to myself, maybe you'll get 
something more than pleasure out of it. 

Which made me wonder what I, also an outsider, had got 
out of itl But, of course, there really are no outsiders. For the 
more I think about Ramakrishna and his disciples the more 
I am aware of a growing conviction that sooner or later, by 
some route or other, this is the way we all must go. "How 
lucky," one is tempted to say, "the disciples were to have 
such an inspiration before them; how easy it would have 
been even for met" forgetting that by the inevitable work- 
ings of Karma they had almost certainly previously earned 
their privilege. 

But at least we have this book in which Ramakrishna and 
his disciples come vividly, unmistakably to life. M., the sym- 
pathetic author, has faithfully recorded all that he heard, 
and all that he saw during the last years of the Master. It is 
impossible to read the book with an open mind and not be 
convinced that Ramakrishna was a mystical genius; that he 
loved God because he could not do otherwise; and that be- 
cause he so loved he reached union with God. Whether or 
not he was a divine incarnation does not seem to me to 
matter. . . . After all it is a question of degree. God is in all 
of us to a greater or lesser extent. But Ramakrishna was like 
a flaming torch pointing the way to God. He was in addition 
an extremely lovable man. He had such grace, such ease. 


267 'The Qospcl of Sri Ramakrishna 

There was never any feeling of strain, as of someone torturing 
himself in order to be good. One feels instinctively that his 
way of life, his belief, his teaching are right; somehow they 
are inevitable, they need no argument. Yet Ramakrishna had 
a gift for words, as his parables and his conversation show; 
nor was he at a loss when assailed by intellectual philoso- 
phers. Somehow it all seems so simple. And in a way it isif 
you want God enough you will find Him. Which do you want 
the most -"woman and gold, 1 ' or God? Another side of 
Ramakrishna which seems to me important is that he had a 
sense of fun, and that he was joyous. It is a tragic mistake 
that the popular idea of a good person is so often that of 
someone rather dull and sombre, someone who rarely laughs. 
Whereas in actual fact it seems that the joy, the sheer pleas- 
ure even, of approaching to God surpasses anything we know. 
There are some minor actions of Ramakrishna faithfully 
reported by M. which may seem hard to understand. But one 
is such a prig, one is so sure of what behaviour is permissible 
or not! What does it matter! Ramakrishna repeatedly said of 
himself that he was a child. And since, as one of the parables 
points out, God takes on the characteristics of any being in 
which He is carnate, occasional childishness is a very small 
price to pay for an immeasurable help to mankind the life 
of Ramakrishna. 

And when at last, ceasing to reason, one stills one's mind, 
there is something more. For there steals over one a strange 
nostalgia, and almost-memory of something once known, 
long since forgotten. And one wonders, all too well aware of 
the answer, what has one in place of that which is lost? Van- 
ity, illusion; just nothing. 

Uivekananda and Sarah 


IN PARIS, during the late suftimer of 1900, Swami Vive- 
kananda had a conversation with the most famous woman 
of the Western world. It was probably, but not certainly, their 
first meeting. The two-volume Life of Vivekananda, by his 
Eastern and Western disciples, refers somewhat vaguely to an 
earlier occasion, in the United States, on which Bernhardt 
"sought an interview with him" (that hardly sounds like the 
imperious Sarah, who had made royalty take its hat off in 
her presence 1) "and expressed her admiration and intense 
interest in the sublime teaching of the philosophy he so 
eloquently and truly represented." The date given for this 
encounter, 1895, would seem, in any case, to be wrong. Bern- 
hardt was not in the States that year, though she visited them 
for a six-month tour in 1896. Moreover, Swamiji himself, 
writing in 1900 about the people he has met in Paris, par- 
ticularly mentions that he and Madame Calv, the singer, 
were previously acquainted, but speaks of Bernhardt as 
though they had just been introduced. 

His correspondent was Swami Trigunatita, back home in 
India, and the tone of these travel-letters, which were in- 
tended for publication, is instructive, gossipy, explosive, fa- 
cetious, affectionate and prophetic by turns: they are among 
the most characteristic things Vivekananda ever wrote. "Mad- 
ame Bernhardt," he tells his brother-monk, "is an aged 
lady; but when she steps on the stage after dressing, her 
imitation of the age and sex of the role she plays is perfect! 
A girl, or a boy whatever part you want her to play, she is 
an exact representation of that. And that wonderful voice! 
People here say her voice has the ring of silver strings!" 


269 Vivekananda and Sarah TSernhardt 

In a couple of months the "aged lady" was going to be 
fifty-six years old. Even the unkind camera shows us that, "on 
the stage after dressing," she did not look a day over thirty. 
Her photograph in the role of L'Aiglon, the Duke of Reich- 
stadt, which she played for the first time in March of that 
year, presents an astonishingly slender and erect little per- 
sonage in a riding-coat and high boots with spurs, neither 
boy nor girl, woman nor man, sexless, ageless, and altogether 
impossible by daylight, outside the walls of a theater. Some 
later references in another of the letters to the story of Na- 
poleon's tragic son suggest that Vivekananda must almost 
certainly have seen Sarah in this, her greatest dramatic tri- 
umph after La Dame aux Camillas. 

Bernhardt was then on the final peak of her mountainous 
career. Her acting was probably better than it had ever been 
before: better, certainly, than in the nineties, when her hit- 
or-miss noisiness, ranting and hamming had provoked the 
brilliant scolding of the young theater-critic Bernard Shaw, 
and his unfavorable comparisons between her and the more 
modern restraint of Eleanora Duse. She had disciplined her- 
self, artistically and emotionally. The crazy days of her pub- 
licityof the balloon-trip, the coffin, and the shooting of the 
St. Louis Bay bridge were far behind her. The shameful 
tragedy of her marriage with Damala had been ended, long 
ago, by his death from morphine poisoning. Her extravagance 
was still immense, but so were her earnings. And the accident 
in Rio de Janeiro which was to result in her gradual crip- 
pling was still five years ahead. 

Swamiji seems to have been taken round to visit her in her 
dressing-room at the theater after a performance. One won- 
ders who introduced them, what word was used to describe 
the Swami's occupation to the actress, and whether she had 
already heard of him. "Madame Bernhardt," writes Vive- 
kananda, "has a special regard for India; she tells me again 
and again that our country is 'tres ancien, tres civilise' 
"very ancient and very civilised." There must have been a 
gleam in Swamiji's eye as he politely received this flattering 

They talked, as was natural, of the only play Sarah had 
ever produced with an Indian setting. It was Izeil, by Mo- 

VEDANTA For <fhe Western World 270 

rand and Silvestre, an expensive flop. Bernhardt had always 
obstinately liked this piece, perhaps because it displayed her 
undoubted talent for theatrical dcor. "She told me that for 
about a month she had visited every museum and made her- 
self acquainted with the men and women, and their dress, 
the streets and bathing ghats and everything relating to 

"Madame Bernhardt," the letter concludes, "has a very 
strong desire to visit India. 'C'est mon reveIt is the dream 
of my life/ she says. Again, the Prince of Wales has prom- 
ised to take her over to a tiger and elephant hunting ex- 
cursion. But then she said, she must spend some two lacs of 
rupees if she went to India! She is of course in no want of 
money. 'La divine Sarah' the divine Sarah is her name- 
how can she want money? She who never travels but by a 
special train! That pomp and luxury many a prince of Eu- 
rope cannot afford to indulge in! One can only secure a seat 
in her performance by paying double the fees, and that a 
month in advance! Well, she is not going to suffer want of 
money! But Sarah Bernhardt is given to spending lavishly. 
Her travel to India is therefore put off for the present." 

Underneath these few mock-serious, bantering sentences, 
one senses the warmth of an immediate sympathy and liking. 
You can picture Swamiji sitting opposite the vivid, Semitic 
little Frenchwoman, large and jolly, his amused glance taking 
in the whole luxurious setting, the jewels, the mirrors, the 
silks, the cosmetics, the marvelous robes. Here, as in all 
women everywhere, he saluted his own daughter, sister, 
mother: here, as always, he bowed to the eternal Godhead, 
beneath yet another of those queer disguises which bewilder 
our wanderings toward Self-realisation. Here, also, he surely 
recognized, to an unusual degree, the virtue he prized so 
highly: courage. Courage was, perhaps, the one quality which 
these fantastically dissimilar personalities had in common: 
the courage which had supported Vivekananda in the black- 
est hours of spiritual torment, of his Master's loss, of all the 
early struggles and trials of the Order, and which had never 
deserted him in the jungle or the mountains or the drawing- 
rooms of American millionaires: the courage which had 
nerved Sarah in her battles to raise her child, in her work 

Zji Vivekananda and Sarah 'Bernhardt 

during the siege of Paris, in her defence of Dreyfus, in her 
return to the stage at the age of seventy-two after the ampu- 
tation of her right leg. Swamiji must have been aware of 
this, and loved her for it. 

And hou did Beinhardt think of him? Perhaps, curiously 
enough, as a kind of colleague. Had not he, also, appeared 
triumphantly before the public? Many actors and actresses, 
including Sarah herself as Joan of Arc, have represented 
saints at any rate, to the satisfaction of the audience beyond 
the footlights. Swamiji, on the other hand, with his superb 
presence and sonorous voice, might well have been mistaken 
for a great actor. 

In a photograph of this period, we see how the eyes oi: llu; 
young sannyasin, burning almost intolerably with mingled 
devotion and doubt, have softened and deepened in the fa^e 
of the mature man. The big lips and the lines spie -"<ing fnn 
the wide nostrils have a curve of watchful humor, in 
there is neither irony, nor bitterness, nor resignation -only 
a great calm, like the sea, with certainty dawnng over if, an 
absolute, arising sun. "Are you never serious, Swamiji?" 
somebody asked him, rather reproachfully, arid was an- 
swered: "Oh, yes. When I have the belly-ache." Even this 
was an overstatement; for the smiling, joking Vivekananda 
of ;igoo was already a very sick man. 

He and Bernhardt never saw each other again. In October, 
the Swami's party left Paris for Austria, the Balkans and 
Egypt, whence he sailed to India, arriving home at the Belur 
monastery early in December. Thus ended his last journey 
to the West. The longer journey, also, was nearly over. One 
day in July 1902, wishing perhaps to spare his friends the 
agony of a goodbye, he passed, by stealth as it were, into 
samadhi, and did not come back. 

Sarah survived him for twenty-one years, survived the first 
world-war, lived on into the era of Chaplin and Pickford and 
the Keystone Cops, appeared in two or three movies herself, 
and died in action, getting ready to rehearse a new play. 

In the half-dozen Bernhardt biographies I have been able 
to consult, the name of Vivekananda is not even mentioned. 
In fact, Ihis brief anecdote of their meeting, with its ex- 
change of Conventional small-talk and politeness, would seem 

VEDANTA For The Western World 272 

to have no point whatsoever. That is just what makes it so 
fascinating and so significant. When poets or politicians fore- 
gather, we expect epigrams and aphorisms; for talk is their 
medium of expression. But talk is not, primarily, the me- 
dium of the man of illumination. His way of approach is 
more direct, more subtle and more penetrating. He makes 
contact with you below the threshold of everyday awareness. 
No matter whether he speaks of the Prince of Wales, or of 
God, or only smiles and says nothing; your whole life will 
be, to some degree, changed from that moment on. 

That is why despite the biographers' silence, and the lack 
of high-class philosophical conversation one dare not say that 
Swamiji's visit made no great or lasting impression upon Sarah. 
The spotlight of history, which reveals a tiny area of surface- 
action so brightly, cannot help us here. All we can venture to 
say is this: "One day, the two human mysteries known to 
this world as Bernhardt and Vivekananda met, exchanged 
certain signals which we do not understand, and parted, we 
do not know why. All we do know is that their meeting, like 
every other event in this universe, did not take place by 

and T^eality 


FOR THOSE WHO live within its limits, the lights of the city 
are the only luminaries of the high sky. The street lamps 
eclipse the stars, and the glare of the whisky advertisements 
reduces even the moonlight to an almost invisible irrel- 

The phenomenon is symbolical, a parable in action. Men- 
tally and physically, man is the inhabitant, during the great- 
est part of his life, of a purely human and, so to say, 
home-made universe, scooped by himself out of the immense, 
non-human cosmos which surrounds it, and without which 
neither it nor he could exist. Within this private catacomb 
we build up for ourselves a little world of our own, con- 
structed of a strange assortment of materials interests and 
"ideals," words and technologies, cravings and day-dreams, 
artifacts and institutions, imaginary gods and demons. Here, 
among the magnified projections of our own personalities, 
we perform our curious antics and perpetrate our crimes 
and lunacies, we think the thoughts and feel the emotions 
appropriate to our man-made environments, we cherish the 
crazy ambitions that alone make sense in a madhouse. But 
ali the time, in spite of the radio noises and the neon tubes, 
night and the stars are therejust beyond the last bus stop, 
just above the canopy ot illuminated smoke. This is a fact 
which the inhabitants of the human catacomb find it all too 
easy to forget; but whether they forget or remember, a fact 
it always remains. Night and the stars are always there; the 
other, non-human world, of which the stars and night are 
but the symbols, persists and is the real world. 

Man, proud man, drest in a little brief authority 
Most ignorant of what he's most assured, 


VEDANTA For The Western World 274 

His glassy essence like an angry ape, 

Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven 

As make the angels weep. 

So wrote Shakespeare in the only one of his plays which re- 
veals any deep concern with the ultimate spiritual realities. 
It is the "glassy essence" of man that constitutes the reality 
of which he is most assured, the reality which sustains him 
and in virtue of which he lives. And this glassy essence is of 
the same kind as the Clear Light, which is the essence of the 
universe. Within us, this "spark," this "uncreated depth of 
the Soul," this atrnan, remains unsullied and unflawed, how- 
ever fantastic the tricks we may playjust as, in the outer 
world, night and the stars remain themselves in spite of all 
the Broadways and Piccadillies, all the searchlights and the 
incendiary bombs. 

The great non-human world, which exists simultaneously 
within us and without, is governed by its own divine laws- 
laws which we are free to obey or disobey. Obedience leads 
to liberation; disobedience to a deeper enslavement to mis- 
ery and evil, to a prolongation of our existence in the like- 
ness of angry apes. Human history is a record of the conflict 
between two forceson the one hand, the silly and criminal 
presumption that makes man ignorant of his glassy essence; 
on the other, the recognition that, unles? he lives in con- 
formity with the greater cosmos, he himself is utterly evil, 
and his world, a nightmare. In this interminable conflict, 
now one side gains the upper hand, and now the other. At 
die present time we are witnessing the temporary triumph 
of the specifically human side of man's nature. For some time 
now we have chosen to believe, and to act on the belief, that 
our private world of neon tubes and incendiaries was the 
only real world, that the glassy essence in us did not exist. 
Angry apes, we have imagined ourselves, because of our 
simian cleverness, to be angels to be indeed, more than 
angels, to be gods, creators, framers of our destiny. What are 
the consequences of this triumph of the purely human side 
of man? The headlines in the morning papers furnish an 
unequivocal reply: the destruction of human values either 
by death or degradation or perversion to the ends of politics 

275 Man and Reality 

revolution and war. When we think presumptuously that we 
are, or shall become in some future Utopian state, "men like 
gods," then in fact we are in mortal danger of becoming 
devils, capable only (however exalted our "ideals" may be, 
however beautifully worked out our plans and blue-prints) 
of ruining our world and destroying ourselves. The triumph 
of humanism is the defeat of humanity. 

Fortunately, as Whitehead has pointed out, the moral 
order of the universe consists precisely in the fact that evil is 
self-stultifying. When evil is given free rein, either by indi- 
viduals or by societies, it always ends by committing suicide. 
The nature of this suicide may be either physical or psycho- 
logical. The evil individuals or societies may be literally 
killed off, or reduced to impotence through mere exhaustion; 
or else they may reach a condition, if the orgy of evil is too 
much prolonged, of such weariness and disgust that they 
find themselves forced, by a kind of sanguinary reductio ad 
absurdum, to surrender to the obvious truth that men are 
not gods, that they cannot control the destiny even of their 
own home-made world and that the only way to the peace, 
happiness and freedom they so ardently desire is through 
the knowledge of and obedience to the laws of the greater, 
non-human cosmos. 

"The further you go towards the East," Sri Ramakrishna 
was fond of saying, "the further you go away from the West." 
This is one of those apparently childish remarks, which we 
meet with so often among the writings and recorded sayings 
of religious teachers. But it is an apparent childishness that 
masks a real profundity. Within this absurd little tautology 
there lies, in a state of living, seminal latency, a whole meta- 
physic, a complete programme of action. It is, of course, the 
same philosophy and the same way of life as were referred to 
by Jesus in those sayings about the impossibility of serving 
two masters, and the necessity of seeking first the kingdom 
of God and waiting for all the rest to be added. Egoism and 
alter-egoism (or the idolatrous service of individuals, groups 
and causes with which we identify ourselves so that their suc- 
cess flatters our own ego) cut us off from the knowledge and 
experience of reality. Nor is this all; they cut us off also from 
the satisfaction of our needs and the enjoyment of our legiti- 

VEDANTA For The Western World 276 

mate pleasures. It is a matter of empirical experience and 
observation that we cannot for long enjoy what we desire as 
human beings, unless we oby the laws of that greater, non- 
human cosmos of which, however much we may, in our 
proud folly, forget the fact, we are integral parts. Egoism 
and alter-egoism advise us to remain firmly ensconced in the 
West, looking after our own human affairs. But if we do this, 
our affairs will end by going to pot; and if our alter-egoistic 
"ideals" have been very lofty, we shall, as likely as not, find 
ourselves liquidating our neighbors on a gigantic scale and, 
incidentally, being liquidated by them. Whereas if we ignore 
the counsels of egoism and alter-egoism, and resolutely march 
towards the divine East, we shall create for ourselves the pos- 
sibility of receiving the grace of enlightenment and, at the 
same time, we shall find that existence in our physical, West- 
ern home is a great deal more satisfactory than it was when 
we devoted our attention primarily to the improvement of 
our human lot. In a word, things in the West will go better 
because, as we go towards the East, we are further from 
them less attached to them, less passionately concerned 
about them, therefore less liable to start liquidating people 
on account of them. But, alas, as the author of the "Imita- 
tion" remarks: "All men desire peace, but few there are who 
desire the things that make for peace." 

A measure of detachment from egoism and alter-egoism is 
essential even if we would make contact with the secondary 
aspects of cosmic reality. Thus, in order to be fruitful, sci- 
ence must be pure. That is to say, the man of science must 
put aside all thoughts of personal advantage, of "practical" 
results, and concentrate exclusively on the task of discovering 
the facts and co-ordinating them in an intelligible theory. In 
the long run, alter-egoism is as fatal to science as egoism. 
Typical of alter-egoistic science is that secretive, nationalistic 
research which accompanies and precedes modern war. Such 
science is dedicated to its own stultification and destruction, 
as well as to the destruction of every other kind of human 

These are not the only detachments which the man of 
science must practice. He must liberate himself not only 
from the cruder egoistic and alter-egoistic passions, but also 

277 Man and Reality 

from his purely intellectual prejudices from the trammels 
of traditional thought-patterns, and even of common sense. 
Things are not what they seem; or, to be more accurate, they 
are not only what they seem, but very much else besides. To 
act upon this truth, as the man of science must constantly 
do, is to practice a kind of intellectual mortification. 

Analogous mortifications and detachments have to be prac- 
ticed by the artist, when he is making his attempt to discover 
and express that divine relationship between the parts of 
the cosmos, which we call beauty. Similarly, on the plane of 
ethical conduct, the manifestations of goodness cannot be 
made by oneself or elicited from others unless there is an 
inhibition of personal and alter-egoistic cravings and aversions. 

When we pass from the realm of the manifested and em- 
bodied aspects of reality to that of reality itself, we shall find 
that there must be an intensification of detachment, a widen- 
ing and deepening of mortification. The symbol of death 
and rebirth recurs incessantly in the sayings and writings of 
the masters of the spiritual life. If God's kingdom is to come, 
man's must go; the old Adam has to perish in order that 
the new man may be born. In other words, ascetical 
self-mortification, at once physical, emotional, ethical, and in- 
tellectual, is one of the indispensable conditions of enlighten- 
ment, of the realization of divine immanence and tran- 
scendence. True, no amount of ascetic practices or of spiritual 
exercises can automatically guarantee enlightenment, which 
is always in the nature of a grace. The most we are justified 
in saying is that the egoism and alter-egoism, which ascetic 
practices are designed to root out, automatically perpetuate 
the state of non-enlightenment. We cannot see the moon 
and the stars so long as we choose to remain within the aura 
of street lamps and whisky advertisements. We cannot even 
hope to discover what is happening in the East, if we turn 
our feet and faces towards the West. 

Words and Ideality 


Wishing to entice the blind, 

The Buddha has playfully let words escape his golden mouth; 

Heaven and earth are ever since filled with entangling briars. 

Oh, my good worthy friends gathered here, 

If you desire to listen to the thunderous voice of the Dharma, 

Exhaust your words, empty your thoughts, 

For then you may come to recognize this one essence. 

So RUNS ONE OF THOSE paradoxical utterances, of which the 
masters of Zen Buddhism were so fond. In its startling and 
rather perverse way, it sums up the whole thorny problem 
of the relationship between direct religious experience and 
the words in which that experience is described, explained 
and related to other experiences in a generalized philosophy. 
Obviously the Buddha and the other founders of religions 
never had any desire to play practical jokes on bewildered 
humanity; nevertheless, the fact remains that their words 
have served to "entice the blind" as well as to enligfiten, to 
"fill heaven and earth with entangling briars" as well as to 
point out the path of liberation. The history of eVen the 
most advanced religions is horribly checkered. Theijr teach- 
ings have inspired some men to sanctity; for others, they have 
served as. the justification for every kind of destructive and 
diabolic activity. The compassionate saint and the ruthless 
crusader, the heresy-hunter and the contemplative are all 
characteristic products of religion, and all derive inspiration 
for their actions from the words recorded in some sacred 
scripture. In other, equally characteristic cases, the contrast is 
less extreme. The same words inspire one man to become a 
mystic and another, a theologian inspire one, that is to say, 
to give up words in an attempt to get to know Cod directly, 


279 Words and Reality 

inspire another to devote himself to an intensive analysis of 
words in the hope of getting to know about God, indirectly, 
through discursive reasoning. All men of great religious in- 
sight are agreed in regarding the theologian's preoccupation 
with words as being almost as dangerous to the individual's 
chance of liberation as are the preoccupations of the crusader 
and the inquisitor with violent action. Its evil effects on 
others will not, of course, be so immediate as in the latter 
cases; but its indirect effects in the way of justifying new gen- 
erations of inquisitors and crusaders and in involving earnest 
seekers yet unborn in the toils of entangling verbal briars, 
may be considerable and grave. 

Buddhas, I repeat, have no deliberate "wish to entice the 
blind"; but by the mere act of "letting words escape their 
golden mouth" they produce a situation which makes it al- 
most seem as if they were playing a practical joke on human- 
ity. They have no choice in the matter. For the principal 
difference between men and the animals consists precisely in 
the fact that men make use of conceptual language and the 
brutes do not. A human being who has never learned to 
speak, and who has therefore been unable to communicate 
with his fellows, is not fully human. (The authenticated cases 
of children brought up by animals make this abundantly 
clear.) The human world is in large measure a verbal world. 
That is why it is so full of "entangling briars" briars which 
are nonexistent for beings on the animal level. But that is 
also why it is a world from which it is possible, as it is not 
for the inhabitants of the animal world, to go forward to- 
wards liberation and enlightenment. 

"There is really nothing to argue about in this teaching," 
writes another Zen master; "any arguing is sure to go against 
the intent of it. Doctrines given up to dispute and argumen- 
tation lead by themselves to birth and death." This state- 
ment conveys a profound and important truth. But it is a 
truth of which we should know nothing unless it had been 
formulated in words, which are the raw materials of dispute 
and argument. Between man and man there can, normally, 
be no communication except in words; and since the duty 
of communicating the trutK to all who may desire to know 
it is incumbent upon those who possess even an inkling of 

VEDANTA For Tthe Western World 280 

its nature, it follows that, in spite of the dangers inherent in 
making statements which can never be fully accurate or 
adequate, words must be used. The final chapter of the Tao 
Te King opens with the saying: 

He who knows does not speak, 
He who speaks does not know. 

Taken quite literally, this is false. Most or all of those who 
knew have spoken, and some speakers at least have known. 
Nevertheless it remains true that most speakers do not know 
and that they speak for the wrong reasons to make an effect, 
to earn praise, to win power, to force an opinion upon their 
hearers. Conversely, the knowers who spoke have always been 
well aware that their words were inadequate to the known 
reality about which they were trying to talk. 

In "The Diamond Sutra" one may find some very interest- 
ing remarks on the relationship between experience and the 
words in which it is the duty of the knower to hand on his 

"The Lord Buddha addressed Subhuti, saying: What think 
you? Has the Lord Buddha attained to supreme spiritual 
wisdom? Or has he a system of doctrine which can be spe- 
cifically formulated? 

"Subhuti replied, saying: As I understand the meaning of 
the Lord Buddha's discourse, he has no system of doctrine 
which can be specifically formulated, nor can the Lord 
Buddha express, in explicit terms, a form of knowledge 
which can be described as supreme spiritual wisdom. And 
why? Because what the Lord Buddha adumbrated in terms 
of the law is transcendental and inexpressible. Being a purely 
spiritual concept, it is neither consonant with law, nor syn- 
onymous with anything apart from the law. Thus is ex- 
emplified the manner in which wise disciples and holy 
Buddhas, regarding intuition as the law of their minds, 
severally attained to different planes of spiritual wisdom." 

On later pages we find two other passages relevant to the 
point under discussion. Here is the first. "The Lord Buddha 
again inquired of Subhuti, spying: What think you? May an 
Arhat thus meditate within himself, I have obtained the con- 

2 8 1 Words and Reality 

dition of an Arhat? Subhuti answered, saying: No, honoured 
of the worlds! And why? Because there is not in reality a 
condition synonymous with the term Arhat. Honoured of 
the worlds! if an Arhat thus meditates within himself, I have 
obtained the condition of an Arhat, there would be obvious 
recurrence of such arbitrary concepts as an entity, a being, a 
living being and a personality." 

The second passage runs as follows: "The Lord Buddha 
addressed Subhuti, saying: If a disciple, having immeasur- 
able spheres filled with the seven treasures, bestowed these 
in the exercise of charity; and if a disciple, whether man or 
woman, having aspired to supreme spiritual wisdom, selected 
from this scripture a stanza comprising four lines, then rigor- 
ously observed it, studied it and diligently explained it to 
others; the cumulative merit of such a disciple would be 
relatively greater than that of the other. 

"In what attitude of mind should it be diligently ex- 
plained to others? Not assuming the persistence or reality of 
earthly phenomena, but in the conscious blessedness of a 
mind at perfect rest." 

These passages provide, by implication, the solution to 
the problem which was posed in the Zen paradox cited at 
the beginning of this paper. Let me try to state it as clearly 
as I can. In spiritual matters, knowledge is dependent upon 
being; as we are, so we know. Hence words have different 
meanings for people on different levels of being. The utter- 
ances of the enlightened are interpreted by the unenlight- 
ened in terms of their own character, and are used by them 
to rationalize and justify the wishes and actions of the Old 

Another danger arises when the words, as words, are taken 
too seriously, when men devote their lives to analyzing, ex- 
plaining and developing the utterances of the enlightened 
ones, imagining that this activity is in some Pickwickian way 
the equivalent of becoming enlightened. "As for the phi- 
losophers," we read in Yoka Daishi's "Song of Enlighten- 
ment/' "they are intelligent enough, but wanting a Prajna 
(illumination). They take an empty fist as containing some- 
thing real, and the pointing finger for the object pointed 
at." Taken too seriously, theology may lead men away from 

VEDANTA For The Western World 282 

the truth instead of towards it. At the same time it is one of 
the most fascinating of studies, and as such, may easily be- 
come one of the most God-eclipsing of intellectual distrac- 
tions. Nor is this all: being a theologian is commonly 
regarded as a highly creditable occupation; consequently it 
is fatally easy for those who make it their business to ma- 
nipulate theological language to develop a deadly spiritual 
pride. (The Arhat, who meditates on the fact that he is an 
Arhat, thereby ceases to be an Arhat.) 

Nevertheless, in spite of all these dangers inherent in talk- 
ing about religious experience, it is the duty of anyone who 
has had such experience "to explain it diligently to others" 
provided always that two conditions be fulfilled. First, he 
must not imagine that he can do more than indirectly hint 
at the nature of intuitively known reality; he must take care 
not to be deceived into believing that he has a system of 
doctrine which is the truth, or which completely expresses 
the truth. Secondly, he must speak in the right spirit and 
for the right reasons with a mind at perfect rest and in 
order that the truth may be known and glorified. Even so, it 
is possible that his recorded words may sooner or later serve 
to "entice the blind and fill the world with entangling 
briars." But this risk must be taken; for unless it is taken, 
those capable of forming a correct idea of the truth will 
never have a chance of hearing about it and advancing to- 
wards enlightenment. Meanwhile, it is the business of the 
theologian to try (avoiding as best he can the peculiar pitfalls 
which beset his path) to work on the problem of finding the 
most adequate words in which to adumbrate the transcend- 
ent and inexpressible. There have been periods in the history 
of the various cultures, when the language of spirituality was 
clear, accurate and exhaustive. At the present time it is mud- 
dled, inadequate to the facts and dangerously equivocal. Lack- 
ing a proper vocabulary, people find it hard, not only to 
think about the most important issues of life, but even to 
realize that these issues exist. Words may cause confusion 
and create entanglements; but the absence of words begets a 
total darkness. 

Some <Jfspects of 'Buddha's 



WE READ in one of the Buddhistic Scriptures, "The Tatha- 
gata has no theories." If any one came to Buddha with the 
intent of merely satisfying an idle curiosity with respect to 
metaphysical problems, he was certain to be disappointed. 
We read in one of the Buddhistic records of an enquirer 
who came to discuss theories of the soul, the world, and the 
problem of knowledge. Buddha replied that if one has been 
wounded by a poisoned arrow and refuses to accept help 
from the physician until he has learned the exact nature of 
the man who wounded him, to what caste he belonged, his 
stature and his complexion, such a one would indeed be 
foolish. Some questions Buddha dismissed as useless and un- 
necessary, while others he said could not be answered in 
logical terms. Just so do the Upanishads admonish us "to 
give up vain talk, for it brings weariness to the tongue/' And 
they further speak of the truth "which words cannot ex- 
press/' "The mind/' they say, "comes away baffled, unable to 
reach it." 

Moreover, Buddha, like the sages of the Upanishads, in- 
sisted that one should experience the truth for one's self. In 
the Upanishads we read: "I have known the self-luminous 
Being beyond all darkness. You also, knowing the truth, at- 
tain to your immortality. There is no other way/' And 
Buddha says: "For Brahman I know, and the world of Brah- 
man, and the path which leadeth unto it. Yea, I know it even 
as one who has entered the Brahman world, and has been 
born within it." And the truth of Brahman is to be known 

FED ANT A For The Western World 284 

by one's own exertion in one's own soul. For we read in the 
teachings of Buddha: "Therefore, O Ananda, be ye lamps 
unto yourselves. Be ye a refuge to yourselves. Betake your- 
selves to no external refuge. Hold fast to the truth as a lamp. 
Hold fast as a refuge to die truth. And whosoever, Ananda, 
either now or after I am dead, shall be a lamp unto them- 
selves, and a refuge unto themselves, shall betake themselves 
to no external refuge, but holding fast to the truth as their 
lamp, and holding fast as their refuge to the truth, shall 
look not for refuge to any one besides themselvesit is they, 
Ananda, among my bhikkhus, who shall reach the very top- 
most height! But they must be anxious to leain." * 

"But they must be anxious to learn/' One must experi- 
ment to know the truthan attitude towards the personal 
life of the spirit held by all the great religious teachers of 
India. For them essential religion does not lie in dogma or 
creed, nor in doctrines or theories, but in experience alone. 
From the Vedic age to our own, every leader has declared 
this primary truth: that one must realize God in his own soul. 

And Buddha, for all his apparent negation, belongs to the 
group of Indian teachers who have affirmed in this way the 
life of the soul. He undertakes to show the way to "quies- 
cence, knowledge, supreme wisdom, and Nirvana" not in 
another life but here and now. The late Professor Irving 
Babbitt of Harvard University, a deep student and strong 
admirer of the Hindu saint, remarks: 

"One should add that the 'Nirvana here and now* (Samdit- 
thakarn Nibbanam) of the Buddhist has much in common 
with the 'release in this life* (jivanmukti) of the Hindu phi- 
losopher. One may, however, affirm confidently that no reli- 
gious teacher was ever more opposed than Buddha in his 
scheme of salvation to every form of postponement and pro- 
crastination. He would have his followers take the cash and 
let the credit go though the cash in this case is not the im- 
mediate pleasure but the immediate peace." 

Philosophically, the Buddhist nirvana is identical with the 
moksha of the Hindu philosophers, which is the release from 
bondage to karma and ignorance and the attainment of the 
kingdom of heaven within. I have purposely used the phrase 

1 Maha-Pariniwana Sutta. 

285 Some ^Aspects of Buddha's thought 

"attainment of the kingdom of heaven within," in order to 
remind Western readers that in reality there is no difference 
in the ultimate goal between Hinduism, Buddhism, and 
Christianity. The moksha of the Hindus, the nirvana of the 
Buddhists, and the "kingdom of heaven within" of the Chris- 
tians are really one and the same, though unfortunately the 
exponents of Christianity would have us believe otherwise. 
The late Mr. Chesterton, for example, attempts to show the 
superiority of Christian over Buddhist saints, declaring, "The 
Buddhist saint always has his eyes shut, while the Christian 
saint always has them very wide open. The Buddhist is look- 
ing with peculiar intentness inward. The Christian is staring 
with frantic intentness outward." Professor Babbitt has beau- 
tifully met Mr. Chesterton's effusion: "But a saint," he re- 
marks, "whether Buddhist or Christian, who knows his busi- 
ness as a saint, is rightly meditative and in proportion to 
the Tightness of his meditation is the depth of his peace. We 
have it on an authority which Mr. Chesterton is bound to 
respect that the kingdom of heaven is within us. It would be 
interesting to hear Mr. Chesterton explain how a saint can 
find that which is within by 'staring frantically outwards/ 
Failing like many others to discriminate between romanti- 
cism and religion, Mr. Chesterton has managed to misrep- 
resent both Buddhism and Christianity. The truth is, that 
though Christianity from the start was more emotional in its 
temper than Buddhism, and though an element of nostalgia 
entered into it from an early period, it is at one in the final 
emphasis with the older religion. In both faiths this empha- 
sis is on the peace that passeth understanding." 


The Four Noble Truths which Buddha taught are these: 
(i) that there is suffering; (2) that there is a cause of suffer- 
ing; (3) that suffering can be overcome; and (4) that there is 
a way to overcome it. 

Because Buddha taught that the world is full of suffering, 
he has often been called pessimistic. But that is a mistake. If 
he drew attention to the misery in life, it was only in order 
to direct the soul toward Freedom. So long as we cling to 

VEDANTA For The Western World 286 

sense experience, he knew, so long shall we fail to discover 
eternal truth; it is therefore well that we should realize as 
speedily and vividly as possible the sorrow which is at the 
core of such experience. Death, for example: let us face that. 
"Not in the sky" so reads the Dhammapada "nor in the 
depths of the ocean, nor in the caves x>f the mountain, nor in 
any place in the whole world may a man dwell without being 
overpowered by death." And again: "How is there laughter, 
how is there joy, as the world is always burning? Why do 
you not seek a light, ye who are surrounded by darkness? 
This body is wasted, full of sickness and pain; this heap of 
corruption breaks to pieces; life indeed ends in death." 

In this recognition of suffering Buddhism but joins hands 
with all the religions of the world. Had the joys of the flesh 
proved entirely satisfactory, the need either of religious con- 
solation or even of inquiry into spiritual truths would not 
have been apparent. Did not Jesus cry out to her who gave 
him water from the well: "Whosoever drinketh of this water 
shall thirst again?" Thus it is, he meant to say, with the pleas- 
ures of the world. And then he went on: "But whosoever 
drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; 
but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of 
water springing up into everlasting life." In like manner the 
Upanishads declare, "There is no happiness in the finite. In 
the Infinite alone is happiness." 

If by pessimism, therefore, be meant full acknowledgment 
of the obvious fact that the world bears a burden of sorrow, 
that joy is but a momentary experience, that mortal life ends 
inevitably in death, then Buddhism is clearly pessimistic. 
And if by pessimism is meant, further, that true, unalloyed 
happiness cannot be achieved in a finite world unless it be 
achieved by overcoming all worldliness, then is Buddhism 
clearly pessimistic. But likewise pessimistic, it must be added, 
are all other religions. 

It all amounts to this. If we would steadfastly seek after 
eternal happiness and peace, we must necessarily look upon 
the momentary pleasures of the world with indifference, 
knowing that they end in suffering. Especially did Buddha 
look upon worldly pleasures as painful so painful that the 
wise man must renounce them. His message was not essen- 

287 So me ^Aspects of 'Buddha's Thought 

tially different from that of Christ when he said, "Except a 
man be born again he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven" 
where to be born again means to overcome the world, and 
thus to find the peace that passeth understanding. The de- 
sire to overcome the world and attain perfect peace cannot 
arise in one who still clings to the lusts of the flesh. We read 
in the Katha Upanishad the story of Nachiketas, who went 
to the King of Death to learn of immortality. But before 
Nachiketas could be taught the truth, the King of Death 
wished by a test to discover if it was really a thirst for knowl- 
edge that filled the heart of the young boy. So he promised 
him all earthly wealth to make him happy. But Nachiketas 
replied, "Keep thou thy houses, keep dance and song for 
thyself. Shall we be happy with these things when we see 
thee, O Death! 1 ' "Blessed are they," said Jesus, "which do 
hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled." 

Buddha's doctrine, then, is not one of despair, since his in- 
sistence is upon rising above the world of the senses into a 
realm of eternal peace. The word Buddha itself means "en- 
lightened," "awakened." 

Psychologically, Buddha regards this world of sense experi- 
ence as a dream world. If we compare our state with that of 
a Buddha, we are living in a world of dreams. The saying of 
Goethe, the wise man of the world, that "Error stands in the 
same relation to truth as sleeping to waking," finds its reli- 
gious counterpart in the almost identical words of the Gita: 
"What is sleep to the ignorant, that, to the wise, is waking." 


^Buddha and *B ergs on 


WITH RESPECT TO THE WORLD of mind and matter, Buddha 
lias very forcefully declared that all things are in a state of 
constant flux. Nothing in the universe is permanent. It is for 
this reason that Buddha makes his reiterated declaration 
that the world is full of suffering. In one of his dialogues he 
converses upon this subject with his disciples thus: "And 
that which is transient, O monks, is it painful or pleasant?'' 

Because of the transitory and changing nature of the 
world, Buddha does not say that it is real nor does he say 
that it is unreal, but that it is somewhere between the real 
and the unreal. 

"This woi Id, O Kaccana, generally proceeds on a duality, 
on the 'it is' and the 'it is not.' But, O Kaccana, whoever 
perceives in truth and wisdom, how things originate in the 
world, in his eyes there is no 'it is not.' Whoever, Kaccana, 
perceives in truth and wisdom how things pass away in this 
world, in his eyes there is no 'it is* in this world 'Every- 
thing is' this is one extreme, O Kaccana. 'Everything is 

not' is another extreme. The truth is the middle." * 

Buddhistic literature employs the figure of the torch 
whirled rapidly round so as to create an illusion of a perfect 
circle of fire in order to illustrate the truth that the identity 
or permanency of anything in our experience is not real, but 
that this appearance of identity or permanency is caused by 
succession and constant flux. That is to say, an object never 
remains the same from moment to moment, but there exists 
the appearance of reality because of a series of successive 
states. Furthermore, an unchanging law called by Buddha 
dharma, continues to operate the law of causation which 

iSamyutta Nikaya. 


289 *Buddha and *Bergson 

makes for the basis of continuity and the appearance of 
identity. "I will teach you the dharma," says Buddha, "that 
being present, this becomes: from the arising of that, this 
arises. That being absent, this does not become: from the 
cessation of that, this ceases/' 2 

The operation of this dharma or law of causation upon 
one state changes it into a successive state, and thus is created 
the ceaseless pulsation or continuous flux. Sir S. Radhakrish- 
nan makes this comment on the doctrine of dharma: 

"The causal evolution is not to be viewed as a mechanical 
succession of movements, in which case the world process 
becomes a series of extinctions and fresh creations, but is one 
state working itself up to another state or informing it with 
a ceaseless pulsation. It is the determination of the present 
by the past. Buddhism believes in transitive causation, where 
one state transmits its paccayasatti, or causal energy, to some 
newly conceived germ. Causal relations are of the type of the 
seed growing into a tree, where the one is necessary for the 
other." 3 

Buddha is not concerned with the philosophical explana- 
tion of this law of dharrna nor is he interested in explaining 
the doctrine of flux. He simply states the psychological ex- 
perience one has of the universe of flux and proceeds to a 
scientific analysis of it. "All are impermanent, body, sensa- 
tion, perception, sankharas, and consciousness, all these are 
sorrow. They are not self." Both the world outside and the 
world within are in a state of constant flux. 

Does a "being," a reality, something permanent, exist be- 
hind this ever-changing flux? The meaning and purpose of 
all philosophy and all religion alike, and of life, are bound 
up in the effort to find, in the words of the Upanishads, "the 
eternal amongst the non-eternals, the abiding joy in the 
midst of the fleeting pleasures of life." And in the midst of 
change there is, in the words of Buddha, the escape from 
sorrow in the cessation of the eternal flux as one attains 
"tranquillity, knowledge, supreme wisdom, arid Nirvana." 

Before we come to explain the nature of this attainment, 
let us repeat that Buddha does not assert a mere philosophy 

* Majjhima Nikaya. 

3 "Indian Philosophy," by S. Radhakrishnan. 

VEDANTA For The Western World 290 

of the flux but one that will enable one to escape the flux. 
And herein lies the fundamental difference between Buddha 
and Western philosophers of the flux. 4 

Buddha's teachings have in fact often been, mistakenly 
identified with the philosophy of flux as expounded by Berg- 
son, Croce, and, to a certain degree, William James. This 
identification is especially true with respect to Bergson. 
Superficially indeed the two appear much alike but on 
deeper analysis they prove to be poles apart. According to 
Bergson, "the ultimate reality is an incessant flux, a creative 
evolution, or real duration," Buddha admits, it is true, that 
the universe- of experience is in constant flux; but he does 
not admit that this incessant flux is the ultimate reality. The 
universe of flux, to Buddha, is neither real nor unreal. 
Bergson, on the other hand, revels in this flux, and his intui- 
tion, in Professor Babbitt's phrase, ''whirls forever on the 
wheel of change," or, in Hindu parlance, "within the bonds 
of Maya." To Bergson "time" or "duration" is real, and 
we should accordingly strive to see things not sub specie 
aeternitatis but sub specie durationis. Buddha perceives the 
flux and seeks a way of escape by rising above time, space, 
and causation. 

In Plato's words, "Too many of our modern philosophers 
in their search after the nature of things are always getting 
dizzy from constantly going round and round; and then they 
think that there is nothing stable or permanent, but only 

* Compare Plato's doctrine of the One and the many. Compare also Shelley's 
great lines from "Adonais": 

"The One remains, the many change and pass: 
Heaven's light forever shines. Earth's shadows fly: 
Life, like a dome of many-coloured glass, 
Stains the white radiance of Eternity, 
Until Death tramples it to fragments." 

Compare also Wordsworth's: 

"Even svch a shell the universe itself 
Is to the ear of Faith; and there are times, 
I doubt not, when to you it doth impart 
Authentic tidings of invisible things; 
Of ebb and flow, and ever-enduring power; 
And central peace, subsisting at the heart 
Of endless agitation." 

291 TZuddha and *Berg son 

flux and motion and that the world is full of every sort of 
motion and change." And these words uttered centuries ago 
by the wisest of the Greeks may be justly applied to the mod- 
ern votaries of the god Whirl. Buddha, like Plato, sought to 
find the state beyond the flux; Bhava-nirodha-nibbanam . . . 
"To withdraw from the flux is to attain Nirvana." 

These philosophers James and Bergson and Croce have 
done great service to Western philosophy by pointing out 
that the ultimate reality cannot be discovered by the intellect 
alone, but they have egregiously failed to discover a way 
whereby one may rise above the reason and arrive at the very 
source of knowledge itself. It is true that both Bergson and 
Croce speak much of intuition, but this intuition of theirs 
is confined to the realm where "time" is supreme and a sense 
ot the "many" prevails. Theirs is essentially a naturalistic 
interpretation of reality, that is, it issues entirely from the 
senses and the faculty of cognition. The Bergsonian tlan 
vital is merely vital expansion within the universe of rela- 
tivity and plurality and flux or change; i.e., within the bonds 
of Maya. Frankly, the use, or abuse, of this word intuition 
by the modern philosophers of the flux can only mean a 
sinking below the reason and the conscious mind into the 
realm of instinct which we share with the lower animals. 

But all of this pseudo-intuition of Bergson and Croce has 
no relation to the Nirvana of Buddha, the Samadhi of the 
Yogis, and the Turiya or transcendental consciousness of the 
Upanishad. Nirvana is in fact the "state in which both sen- 
sations and ideas have ceased to be," in which "the sage is 
delivered from time." B It is a state of Shunnyata, wrongly 
translated as "nothingness," but which really means "the 
absence of subject-object relation." The Mandukya Upani- 
shad describes Turiya which is similar to Buddhistic Nirvana: 
"Turiya is not that which is conscious of the subjective 
world, nor that which is conscious of the objective world, 
nor that which is conscious of both, nor that which is a mass 
of all sentiency, nor that which is simple consciousness, nor 
that which is insentient. It is unseen by the senses, not re- 
lated to anything, incomprehensible to the mind, uninfer- 
able, unthinkable, indescribable, essentially of the nature of 

5 Maha-Pariniwana Sutta, VI, ia. 

VEDANTA For <fhe Western World 292 

consciousness constituting the Self alone, negation of all phe- 
nomena, the Peaceful, all-bliss, and the non-dual/' 

The Nirvana of the Buddhists and the Turiya of the 
Upanishads are not conceptual in that they are beyond the 
relation of subject and object or of the knower and the object 
of knowledge, beyond time, space, and causation. In sum, 
they refer to consciousness itself without the contents of con- 
sciousnesssomething from the relative point of view un- 
thinkable and inconceivable but yet attainable. They are 
consciousness itself, beyond all awareness of flux and rela- 
tivity, not attainable by any dlan vital or by the submersion 
of the self below the level of consciousness; rather are they 
attained by a frein vital (inner check), a control of the con- 
scious and the subconscious mind, and, by a supreme act of 
self-restraint and of meditation, a rising above and beyond 
reason. So long as we remain upon the level of the flux, and 
experience only the objects within the flux, we are asleep. 
"How many people," asks Buddha, "eat, drink, and get mar- 
ried; buy, sell, and build; make contracts and attend to their 
fortunes; have friends and enemies, pleasures and pains; are 
born, grow up, live, and diebut asleep?" To attain Nirvana 
is simply to break this sleep in which we experience only the 
flux and to wake to an intuition of the One. 

Buddha, like all the philosophers of India, believed in the 
Law of Karma and in reincarnation as the working out of 
this Law, in that we are bound to the wheel of birth and 
death until we finally break our chains and attain illumina- 
tion in Nirvana. Then no longer is there birth and death as 
we pass into a state of being that is indescribable and un- 
thinkable in concrete terms. Buddha even refused to define 
in positive terms what he meant by the word Nirvana. To 
define is to limit, and definition is possible only of something 
within the limits of "time, space, and causation." 

But though Nirvana must remain indefinable, yet we 
know the effects it produces in life. 

Professor Babbitt in this connection remarks in substance 
as follows: " 'By their fruits ye shall know them/ said the 
Divine One of Galilee, And St. Paul has named these fruits 
as follows: 'Love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, good- 
ness, faith, meekness, temperance* (Galatians 5:22-23). Asoka, 

293 Buddha and *Bergson 

the great Buddhist Emperor of India who was like St. Paul 
as a founder of a Buddhistic canon, carved in stone these 
fruits: 'Compassion, liberality, truth, purity, gentleness, peace, 
joyousness, saintliness, self-control/ " 

Thus we may see that, however divergent the paths and 
however wide the approach, we may know experimentally 
that they all lead to the same ultimate goal, the release of the 
human spirit from the wheel of change and the refining of 
Our individual lives through the development of similar 
qualities in our several natures. This ceniral truth, then, lies 
at the heart of every religion, in the words of the Upanishads, 
final attainment of "infinite knowledge, infinite freedom, 
and infinite peace." "Come unto me, all ye that labour and 
are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest," and "My peace I 
give unto you/' said Christ. And Buddha uttered these 
words: "His thought is quiet, quiet are his word and deed, 
when he has obtained freedom by true wisdom, then he 
has become a quiet man." 


The Thilosophia Terenms 


THOSE WHO ARE INTERESTED in Vedanta and the West are 
naturally always on the lookout for the rising of one more 
of those bridges which must, in this generation of birth-and- 
death, make possible a new understanding between men of 
good will in East and West. For, speaking as a Westerner 
and it is a judgment with which an Oriental would doubtless 
agree the state of our Occidental culture today much re- 
sembles that critical path into which the older West found 
itself precipitated in the second century of the Christian era. 
Then, an Oriental religion, the last of many Oriental com- 
petitors for the prize of the Roman Empire, had begun to 
win converts in a surprising way. The Imperial Court was 
interested, a possible heir to the throne was found to be in- 
volved: neither patrician nor slave was safe from the con- 
tagion of the new faith. But faith without a frame of 
reference is always a wine without a bottle. As we know, the 
frame of reference for Christianity, the form in which that 
faith became the philosophy and culture known as Christen- 
dom, was found in Greek thought. With that amalgam the 
world in the West remains content until today. Now in our 
generation that system has reached exhaustion, no longer 
answering the intellectual questions of men nor giving a 
sanction to their propriety. Hence our crisis. And, once again, 
at the moment of crisis, out of the East has come a light and 
a faith or perhaps we should say that, though the light is 
one, it has come and is coming to us like a rainbow, a thing 
not only of hope but of many colors. 

This brief note is to draw the attention of others similarly 
interested, who may not have come across this particular 
thinker, to the work of Dr. Coomaraswamy. For some time, 
thoughtful people have been gathering the articles of this 


295 Th 6 Thilosophia Terennis 

writer. They reveal an immense scholarship which is not only 
thoroughly at home in our Western religious ana philosoph- 
ical thought but which shows its relevance and illumination 
through the Light from Asia. Dr. Coomaraswamy is the curator 
of Oriental art at the Boston Museum of Fine Art. He has, 
therefore, the entree to minds which would not otherwise 
listen to his words about religion for culture can still com- 
mand respect in our decadent West where cultus is despised. 
Dr. Coomaraswamy has used this approach to show us of the 
West that we cannot really understand art, still less hope to 
produce it, until we understand that it can only spring from 
a profoundly religious point of view. In his searching essay, 
"Am I My Brother's Keeper?" which appeared in the maga- 
zine Asia, he points out that when we collect works of art we 
kill what we would preserve, like uneducated children tear- 
ing up wild flowers. And he points out that we ourselves 
really know this, for, until the smash came, the demand of 
the tourist was to find a place which he called " unspoilt" 
viz., a place where his own "culture" had not yet penetrated. 
He adds that the words "to spoil" mean not only to ruin 
but also to loot. 

But it is to an essay which has lately appeared in book 
form that the rest of these remarks must be devoted. This 
small booklet is called "Hinduism and Buddhism." x The 
point of view is that of the Hinayana school of philosophy. 
But the author, by taking that position, does not wish to op- 
pose it to the Mahayana form. 

The greater and the lesser vehicle can both travel along 
the noble eightfold path. What he is concerned to show is 
that Buddhism and Hinduism are not in conflict: the one 
is a development out of the massive foundation of the other. 
Still further, Dr. Coomaraswamy wishes to showand cer- 
tainly his scholarship would seem to sustain it that the es- 
sentials of Christianity, of Buddhism in its two forms, and 
of Hinduism are one. Here is the Philosophia Perennis, here 
the Eternal Gospel. 

History does not repeat itself but it does recapitulate, and 
the themes sounded earlier are found in the vast orchestra- 

i "Hinduism and Buddhism," Dr. A. Coomaraswamy. The Library of Philos- 
ophy. 15 East 40th St. New York City. 

VEDANTA For The Western World 296 

tion of life coming back time and again with new and fuller 
harmonization. So is it with East and West in this matter of 
religion. Today we shall not repeat in any detail the great 
syncretistic effort of the Second Century. But, on a larger 
scale, we shall see another blending of East and West. The 
original element in this new blending will be, as Dr. Cooma- 
raswamy has pointed out, not a borrowing, indeed not a real 
syncretism,, but a recognition of a common thought mani- 
festing its power under different forms. As he says, the great 
religions do not so much borrow from each other as all draw 
from a basic philosophy, a way of life, an apprehension of 
reality which has been there all the while but which we have 
forgotten. This realization that ignorance is our greatest mis- 
take and fault is of course a thought which the East has 
stressed more than the West, but, if it is true, then what the 
East can do for the West is not so much to convert it, still 
less to make it adopt its forms, as to remind it of the truth 
which it knows but has forgotten and let drop to the back 
of its mind. 

It is here that we return to the thought of such perennial 
teaching that it is in the life lived, in the fruit of the tree 
of religion that its power of propaganda resides. Religions 
may appeal because they are strange and subtle in their phi- 
losophy or rich and colorful in their rituals. They will only 
last if they can alter the quality of character. The practical 
man makes that his test. It is also the test given by Christ 
and by Buddha. Dr. Coomaraswamy points out how this 
Eternal Gospel has a stark simplicity and a total demand. 
He quotes repeatedly that telling statement of Eckhart, as 
summing up all the truth: "The Kingdom of God belongs 
only to the thoroughly dead." The doctrine of being born 
again by dying to the self the teaching of the story of the 
pearl of great price: that everything must be given for it 
this to him is the perennial philosophy. It is always being 
overlaid and mistaken. So, when we have let it be lost, the 
East comes to us again to remind us that there is a command- 
ment greater even than the commandment to love your 
neighbor which we have thought to be the last word of 
morality. The first commandment comes first not only be- 
cause it is first by its very nature but because, unless it is 

297 *fhe 'Philosophia *Perennu 

practiced first, the second can never be fulfilled. Otherwise, 
our love for our neighbor will remain only a slogan and 
when we try to put it into practice we shall in fact start 
liquidating him because, in the form in which he actually 
appears, we really detest him. The first commandment is, 
then, the guarantee, the only possible sanction for the sec- 
ond, the only possible power which can give "The Social 
Gospel" any virtue to redeem mankind. Some may say: "Why 
do we need yet another voice to tell us that, why do we re- 
quire the same light thrown from another angle?' * The fact 
remains that a new voice often awakes us when we are drows- 
ing under the repetition of the truth spoken to us in familiar 
terms. Further, Hinduism is also teaching the West that, 
since "All roads lead to God" men have to find that road 
which suits best their nature, Catholicism helps some, hin- 
ders others: Vedanta likewise. Here in Dr. Coomaraswamy's 
rendering of Hinayana is still another way of reaching the 
same goal. 


Reflections on the Lord's TrayerI 


FAMILIARITY DOES NOT necessarily breed comprehension; in- 
deed, it often interferes with comprehension. We take the 
familiar thing for granted, and do not even try to find out 
what it is. To millions of men and women the sentences of 
the Lord's Prayer are the most familiar of all forms of words. 
They are far from being the most completely understood. 
That is why, in the past, it has been the subject of so many 
commentaries; and that is why it has seemed worth while to 
add these brief reflections to the list. 

The invocation defines- the nature of the God to whom 
the prayer is addressed. The full significance of the phrase 
can best be grasped by emphasizing in turn the individual 
words of which it is composed. 

"Our Father which art in heaven." 

God is ours in the sense that He is the universal source and 
principle, the being of all beings, the life of all that lives, the 
spirit of every soul. He is present in all creatures; but all 
creatures are not equally aware of His presence. The degree 
of this awareness varies with the quality of that which is 
aware, for knowledge is always a function of being. God's 
nature is fully comprehensible only to God Himself. Among 
creatures, knowledge of God's nature expands and becomes 
more adequate in proportion as the knower becomes more 
God-like. As St. Bernard puts it, "God who, in His simple 
substance is all everywhere equally, nevertheless, in efficacy, 
is in rational creatures in another way than in irrational, 
and in good rational creatures in another way than in the 
bad. He is in irrational creatures in such a way as not to be 
comprehended by them; by all rational creatures, however, 
He can be comprehended by knowledge; but only by the 
good is He also comprehended by love" and, we might add, 

299 Reflections on the Lord's ^Prayer / 

by contemplation, which is the highest expression of man's 
love of God. 

The final end of man's existence is this: to make himself 
fit to realize God's presence in himself and in other beings. 
The value of all that he thinks and does is to be measured 
in terms of his capacity for God. Thoughts and actions are 
good, when they make us, morally and spiritually, more 
capable of realizing the God who is ours, immanently in 
every soul and transcendently as that universal principle in 
which we live and move and have our being. They are bad 
when they tend to reinforce the barriers which stand between 
God and our souls, or the souls of other beings. 

"Our Father which art in heaven/' 

A father begets, supports and educates, loves and yet 

All sentient beings are capable of disobedience to the 
Father's will, man pre-eminently so. Conversely, man is pre- 
eminently capable of obedience. 

God as He is in Himself cannot be known except by those 
who are "perfect as their father in heaven is perfect." Con- 
sequently, the intrinsic nature of God's love for the world 
must remain, for the overwhelming majority of human be- 
ings, a mystery. But of God's love in relation to us, and from 
our point of view, we are able to form a sufficiently clear 
idea. And the same is true of what is called God's anger, or 
the stern and punishing aspect of the divine fatherhood.' Any 
disobedience to God's will, any flouting of the nature of 
things, any departure from the norms governing the uni- 
verses of matter, mind and spirit, results in more or less 
serious consequences for those directly or even indirectly 
involved in the transgression. Certain of these undesirable 
consequences of disobedience are physical, as when some 
flouting of the laws of nature or of human nature leads, for 
example, to disease in the individual or war in the body 
politic. Others are moral and spiritual, as when bad habits 
of thought and conduct lead to degeneration of character 
and the erection of insurmountable barriers between the 
soul and God. These fruits of human disobedience are com- 
monly regarded as the expression of God's anger. 

In the same way, we commonly regard as the expression of 

VEDANTA For The Western World 300 

God's love those desirable consequences, physical, moral or 
spiritual, which flow from obedience to the divine will and 
conformity to the nature of things. This is the sense in 
which, for the "natural man," God is our father, at once 
loving and stern. God's fatherhood as it is in itself cannot be 
known to us until we have fitted ourselves for the beatific 
vision of divine reality. 

"Our Father which art in heaven." 

This is the keyword of the invocation; for the ultimate 
fact about God is the fact of His being. "Who is He?" (I 
quote St. Bernard once again.) "I can think of no better an- 
swer than, He who is. No name is more appropriate to the 
eternity which God is. If you call God good, or great, or 
blessed, or wise, or anything of this sort, it is included in 
these words, namely, He is." 

Philosophers have written interminably of Being, Essence, 
Entities. Much of this speculation is meaningless and would 
never have been undertaken, if the philosophers in question 
had troubled to analyze their medium of expression. In the 
Indo-European languages, the verb "to be" is used in a num- 
ber of different ways and with meanings which are by no 
means always identical. Owing to this fact, much which used 
to pass as metaphysics has now come to reveal itself, with the 
advance of linguistic studies, as no more than misunderstood 
grammar. Does this apply to such statements as that God is 
He who is? The answer is, no. For the statement that God is 
He who is, is one that can be, in some measure, empirically 
verified by anyone who cares to fulfill the conditions upon 
which mystical insight into reality depends. For in contem- 
plation the mystic has a direct intuition of a mode of being 
incomparably more real and substantial than the existences 
his own and that of other things and personsof which, by a 
similar direct intuition, he is aware at ordinary times. That 
God is, is a fact that men can actually experience, and is the 
most important of all the facts that can be experienced. 

Everything that can be said about God, "is included in 
these words, namely, He is." Because He is, we apprehend 
Him as ours and as father. And also, because He is, we ap- 
prehend Him as being "in heaven." 

"Our Father which art in heaven." 

301 Reflections on the Lord's ^Prayer / 

Throughout the prayer, heaven is contrasted with earth, 
as something different from it in kind. The terms have, o! 
course, no spatial significance. The mind is its own place, 
and the Kingdom of Heaven is within. In other words, 
heaven is another and superior mode of consciousness. For 
the natural, unregenerate way of thinking, feeling and will- 
ing, must be substituted another way. The life of earth must 
be lost that the life of heaven may be gained. At first, as 
every mystic has taught, the mode of consciousness which we 
call "heaven" will be ours only fitfully, during moments of 
contemplation. But in the highest stages of proficiency 
samsara and nirvana are one; the world is seen sub specie 
aeternitatis; the mystic is able to live uninterruptedly in the 
presence of God. He will continue to work among his fellow 
men, here on earth; but his spirit will be "in heaven," be- 
cause it is assimilated to God. 

So much for the invocation; we have now to consider the 
prayer proper. This is couched in the imperative tense; but 
the full extent of its significance is best understood if we 
translate the clauses into the indicative and regard them as a 
series of statements about the end of human life and the 
means whereby that end is to be achieved. 

Another point to remember is that, though the phrases are 
uttered successively, each one is relevant, as a statement si- 
multaneously of cause and effect, to all the others. If we were 
making a diagrammatic representation of the prayer, it 
would not be correct to symbolize it under the image of 
a straight line or an open curve. The appropriate symbol 
would be a closed figure, in which there is no beginning or 
end and in which every section is the forerunner and suc- 
cessor of every other a circle or, better, a spiral, where the 
repetitions are progressive and take place, as the conditions 
of advance are fulfilled, at ever higher points of achievement. 

"Hallowed be Thy name.*' 

Applied to human being, the word "holiness" signifies the 
voluntary service of, and self-abandonment to, the highest, 
most real good. Hallowing, or making holy, is the affirma- 
tion, in words and actions, that the thing hallowed partakes 
of the highest, most real good. That which alone ought to 
be hallowed (and we must pray for strength to hallow it un- 

VEDANTA For The Western World 302 

ceasingly) is the name of God the God who is, and is there- 
fore ours, the father and in heaven. 

"The name of God" is a phrase which carries two principal 
meanings. In so far as the Jews, like many other peoples of 
antiquity, regarded the name of a thing as identical with its 
inner principle or essence, the phrase means simply "God." 
"Hallowed be Thy name" is equivalent to "hallowed be 
Thou/' The clause asserts that God is the highest, most real 
good, and that it is to the service of this good alone that we 
should dedicate our lives. What we pray for, when we repeat 
this clause, is living, experiential knowledge of this fact, and 
the strength unswervingly to act upon that knowledge. 

So much for the first meaning of "Thy name." Its other 
meaning accords with that view of language which has pre- 
vailed in modern times. For us, the name of something is 
essentially different from that which is named. Words are 
not the things they stand for, but devices by means of which 
we are enabled to think about things. To one who considers 
the matter from the modern standpoint "the name of God" 
is not the equivalent of "God." Rather, it stands for those 
verbal concepts, in terms of which we think about God. 
These concepts are to be hallowed, not of course in and for 
themselves (for that would be mere magic), but inasmuch as 
they contribute to the effective and continuous hallowing of 
God in our lives. Knowledge is one of the conditions of love, 
and words are one of the conditions of any form of rational 
knowledge. Hence the importance, in the spiritual life, of a 
working hypothesis regarding the highest, most real good. 
Hallowing God's name is thinking verbalized thoughts about 
God, as a means to passing from mere intellectual knowledge 
to a living experience of reality. Discursive meditation pre- 
cedes and is the preparation for contemplation; access to 
God Himself can be had through a proper use of the name 
of God. This is true, not only in the extended sense in which 
the word has hitherto been used, but also in the most limited 
and literal sense. Wherever spiritual religion has flourished, 
it has been found that a constant repetition of sacred names 
can serve a very useful purpose in keeping the mind one- 
pointed and preparing it for contemplation. 

The relationship between this first clause of the prayer and 

303 Reflections on the Lord's Trayer / 

the succeeding clauses may be summed up in a few sentences. 
The hallowing of God and of His name is an indispensable 
condition of achieving the other aims mentioned in the 
prayer-namely, the realization of God's kingdom and the 
doing of His will, and the fitting of the soul to receive from 
God grace, forgiveness and liberation. Conversely, the better 
we succeed, through liberation, forgiveness and grace, in do- 
ing God's will and realizing His kingdom, the more ade- 
quately shall we be enabled to hallow God's name and God 

'*!&<<$*&&e^*S>^> l $*<<$>^ 

Reflections on the Lord's 


"THY KINGDOM COME ... in earth as it is in heaven." 

The end of man's existence is to use his opportunities in 
space-time in such a way that he may come to the knowledge 
of God's kingdom of timeless reality or, to put it the other 
way round, that he may be fit for reality to come to mani- 
festation in and through Him. The "is," in "as it is in 
heaven," was introduced into the English translation as a 
mere linguistic convenience. But if we choose to underline 
it, so as to make it carry, like the "art" of the invocation, a 
suggestion of real and substantial being, the word will help 
us to realize more clearly what it is we are praying for the 
strength to pass through time to a realization here, in time, 
of eternity, for the power to give eternity a chance of possess- 
ing us, not merely virtually, but in realized actuality. For 
the contemplative saints who are "perfect as their Father in 
heaven is perfect," samsara and nirvana are one, God's king- 
dom comes on earth as it is in heaven. Nor is the change 
merely personal and subjective. The influence of these peo- 
pie has power to change the world in which they live. 

The end of human life cannot be achieved by the efforts of 
the unaided individual. What the individual can and must 
do is to make himself fit for contact with reality and the re- 
ception of that grace by whose aid he will be enabled to 
achieve his true end. That we may make ourselves fit for 
God, we must fulfill certain conditions, which are set forth 
in the prayer. We must hallow God's name, do God's will 
and forgive those who have trespassed against us. If we do 
this, we shall be delivered from the evil of selfhood, forgiven 
the sin of separatencss and blessed with the bread of grace, 


305 Reflections on the Lord's Trayer* // 

without which our contemplation will be illusory and our 
attempts at amendment vain. 

"Thy will be done, in earth as it is in heaven." 

This phrase carries two meanings. So far as ultimate reality 
is concerned, the will of God is identical with God's being or 
kingdom. To pray that the will of God may be done in 
earth as in heaven is to pray, in other words, for the coming 
into time of the kingdom of eternity. Bur the words do not 
apply only to ultimate reality; they also apply to human 
beings. So far as we are concerned, "doing the will of God" 
is doing what is necessary to fit ourselves for the grace of 

Earth is incommensurable with heaven, time with eter- 
nity, the ego with the spirit. The kingdom of God can come 
only to the extent to which the kingdom of the natural man 
has been made to go. If we would gain the life of union, we 
must lose the life of passion, idle curiosity and distractions, 
which is the ordinary life of human selves. "Fight self," says 
St. Catherine of Siena, "arid you need fear no other foe." 

All this is very easy to read and write, but enormously diffi- 
cult to put into practice. Purgation is laborious and painful; 
but purgation is the condition of illumination and union. 
Conversely, a certain measure of illumination is a condition 
of effective purgation. The stoic thinks to deny himself by 
making acts of the surface will. But the surface will is 
the will of the self, and his mortifications tend rather to 
strengthen the ego than eliminate it. He is apt to become, 
in the tremendous phrase coined by William Blake, "a fiend 
of righteousness." Having denied one aspect of his ego 
merely to strengthen another and more dangerous aspect, he 
ends up by being more impervious to God than he was be- 
fore he started his process of self-discipline. To fight self ex- 
clusively with the self serves only to enhance our selfhood. 
In the psychological field there can be no displacing without 
replacing. For preoccupation with self must be gradually 
substituted preoccupation with reality. There can be no ef- 
fective mortification for enlightenment without meditation 
or devotion, which direct the attention away from self to a 
higher reality. As I have remarked before, all spiritual proc- 
esses are circular, or rather spiral. In order to fulfill the con- 

VEDANTA For The Western World 306 

ditions of enlightenment we must have the glimmerings, if 
not of enlightenment itself, at least of an idea of what en- 
lightenment consists in. God's will must be done by us, if 
God's kingdom is to come in us; and God's kingdom must 
begin to come, if we are effectively to do God's will. 

"Give us this day our daily bread." 

It is possible that the word translated as "daily" may really 
carry another meaning and that the phrase should read: 
"Give us this day our bread of the (eternal) day." This would 
emphasize the fact, already sufficiently obvious to anyone 
familiar with the language of the gospels, that the bread re- 
ferred to is a divine and spiritual nourishment the grace of 
God. In the traditional translation the spiritual nature of 
the bread is taken for granted and an additional emphasis is 
laid on the thought already expressed in the words "this 

A man cannot be nourished by the anticipation of to- 
morrow's dinner, or the recollection of what he ate a week 
ago. Bread serves its purpose only when consumed "this 
day" here and now. It is the same with spiritual food. Re- 
morseful thoughts about the past, pious hopes and aspira- 
tions for a better future contain no nourishment for the 
soul, whose life is always now, in the present, and not at any 
other un-actual moment of time. In its passage from the 
vegetative and animal level to the spiritual, life passes from 
what may be called the physiological eternity of mindless 
existence, through the human world of memory and antici- 
pation, past and future, into another and higher timelessness, 
the eternal kingdom of God. In the ascending spiral of being, 
the contemplative saint stands at a point exactly correspond- 
ing, on his higher level, to the position of a flower or a bird. 
Both inhabit eternity; but whereas the flower's or the bird's 
eternity is the everlasting present of mindlessness, of natural 
processes working themselves out with little or no accom- 
panying consciousness, the saint's eternity is experienced in 
union with that pure consciousness, which is the ultimate 
reality. Between these two worlds lies the human universe 
of foresight and retrospect, of fear and craving and memory 
and conditioning, of hopes and plans and day-dreams and 
remorses. It is a rich world, full of beauty and goodness as 

307 Reflections on the Lord's 'Prayer // 

well as of much evil and ugliness but a world which is not 
the world of reality; for it is our world, man-made, the 
product of the thoughts and actions of beings who have 
forgotten their true end and have turned to things which 
are not their highest good. This is the truth proclaimed by 
all the great spiritual teachers of history the truth that en- 
lightenment, liberation, salvation, call it what you will, can 
come only for those who learn to live now in the contempla- 
tion of eternal reality, no longer in the past and future of 
human memories and habits, desires and anxieties. 

Christ was especially emphatic on the urgent necessity of 
living in the spiritual present. He exhorted his disciples to 
model their life upon that of the flowers and the birds, and 
to take no thought for the morrow. They were to rely, not 
on their own anxious scheming, but upon the grace of God, 
which would be given in proportion as they gave up their 
own personal pretensions and self-will. The phrase of the 
Lord's Prayer, which we are now considering, sums up the 
whole gospel teaching on this head. We must ask God for 
grace now, for the good reason that the nature of grace is 
such that it can only come now, to those who are ready to 
live in the eternal present. 

As usual, the practical problem for the individual is enor- 
mously difficult. Liberation cannot come unless we take no 
thought for tomorrow and live in the eternal present. But at 
the same time prudence is one of the cardinal virtues and it 
is wrong to tempt Providence by being rash and thoughtless. 

Oh wearisome condition of humanity! 

Born under one law, to another bound; 
Vainly begot, and yet forbidden vanity; 

Created sick, commanded to be sound. 

For such a being (and Fulke Greville's description is emi- 
nently accurate) no problem can be anything but hard. This 
particular problem the finding of a right relation between 
the world of eternal reality and the human world of time- 
is surely one of the hardest of all. We need grace in order to 
be able to live in such a way as to qualify ourselves to receive 


Reflections on the Lord's 


"FORGIVE us OUR TRESPASSES, as we forgive them that trespass 
against us." 

"As we forgive them that trespass against us" is a phrase 
which must be thought of as qualifying all the classes of the 
prayer. Forgiving is merely a special case of giving, and the 
word may be taken to stand for the whole scheme of non- 
egotistic life, which is at once the condition and the result 
of enlightenment. As we forgive, or, in other words, as we 
change our "natural," egotistic attitude towards our fellow 
beings, we shall become progressively more capable of hal- 
lowing the name of God, of doing God's will and cooperat- 
ing with God to make His kingdom come. Moreover, the 
daily bread of grace, without which nothing can be achieved, 
is given to the extent to which we ourselves give and forgive. 
If one is adequately to love God, one must love one's neigh- 
borsand one's neighbors include even those who have tres- 
passed against us. Conversely, one must love God, if one is 
adequately to love one's neighbors. In the spiritual life, every 
cause is also an effect, and every effect is at the same time a 

We have now to consider in what sense God forgives our 
trespasses or debts, as we forgive our debtors, or those who tres- 
pass against us. 

On the human level, forgiveness is the waiving of an ac- 
knowledged right to payment or punishment. Some of these 
acknowledged rights are purely arbitrary and conventional. 
Others, on the contrary, seem to be more fundamental, more 
closely in accord with what we regard as just. But these fun- 
damental notions of justice are the notions of the "natural," 


309 Reflections on the Lord's Prayer /// 

unregenerate man. All the great religious teachers of the 
world have insisted that these notions must be replaced by 
othersthe thoughts and intuitions of the liberated and en- 
lightened man. The Old Law is to be replaced by the New, 
which is the law of love, of mahakarun, of universal com- 
passion. If men are not to enforce their "rights" for payment 
or punishment, then most certainly God does not enforce 
such rights. Indeed, it is absurd to say that such "rights** have 
any existence in relation to God. If they exist upon the 
human level, it is solely in virtue of the fact that we are 
either isolated selves or, at best, self-sacrificing members of 
groups which have the character of selves and whose selfish 
behavior vicariously satisfies the ego-feelings of those who 
have sacrificed themselves to these groups. The "natural" 
man is motivated either by selfishness or that social subli- 
mation of selfishness which Philip Leon has aptly called 
"alter-egoism." But because God does not enforce any 
"rights" of the kind that unregenerate individuals and so- 
cieties enforce, under the plea of justice, it does not follow 
that our acts are without their good or evil consequences. 
Here again the great religious teachers are unanimous. There 
is a law of karma; God is not mocked, and as a man sows, so 
shall he reap. Sometimes the reaping is extremely obvious, 
as when a habitual drunkard reaps bodily sickness and a 
failure of mental power. Very often, on the contrary, the 
reaping is of a nature which it is very difficult for any but 
enlightened eyes to detect. For example, Jesus was constantly 
inveighing against the Scribes and Pharisees. But the Scribes 
and Pharisees were models of austere respectability and good 
citizenship. The only trouble with them was that their vir- 
tues were only the virtues of unregenerate men and such 
righteousness is as "filthy rags" in the sight of God; for even 
the virtues of the unregenerate are God-eclipsing and pre- 
vent those who have them from advancing towards that 
knowledge of ultimate reality, which is the end and purpose 
of life. That which the Scribes and Pharisees reap is the more 
or less total inability to know the God tney fondly imagine 
they are serving. God does not punish them, any more than 
he punishes the man who inadvertently steps over the edge 
of a cliff. The nature of the world is such that, if anyone fails 

FED ANT A For The Western World 310 

to conform to its laws, whether of matter or mind or spirit, 
he will have to take the consequences, which may be imme- 
diate and spectacular, as in the case of the man who steps 
over the edge of the cliff, or remote, subtle and very far from 
obvious, as in the case of the virtuous man who is virtuous 
only in the manner of the Scribes and Pharisees. 

Now, since God has no "rights" to enforce, he can never be 
thought of as waiving such "rights." And since he is the 
principle of the world, he cannot suspend those laws or make 
exceptions to those uniformities, which are the manifestation 
of that principle. Does this mean, then, that God cannot 
forgive our debts and trespasses? In one sense it certainly 
does. But there is another sense in which the idea of divine 
forgiveness is valid and profoundly significant. Good actions 
and thoughts produce consequences which tend to neutralize, 
or put a stop to, the results of evil thoughts and actions. For 
as we give up the life of self (and note that, like forgiveness, 
repentance and humility are also special cases of giving), as 
we abandon what the German mystics called "the I, me, 
mine," we make ourselves progressively capable of receiving 
grace. By grace we are enabled to know reality more com- 
pletely, and this knowledge of reality helps us to give up 
more of the life of selfhood and so on, in a mounting spiral 
of illumination and regeneration. We become different from 
what we were and, being different, cease to be at the mercy 
of the destiny which, as "natural," unregenerate beings, we 
had forged for ourselves by our evil thoughts and actions. 
Thus the Pharisee who gives up his life of self-esteeming 
respectability and uncharitable righteousness, becomes ca- 
pable thereby of receiving a measure of grace, ceases to be a 
Pharisee and, in virtue of that fact, ceases to be subject to 
the destiny forged by the man he once was and is no more. 
The making oneself fit to receive grace is effective repentance 
and atonement; and the bestowal of grace is the divine for- 
giveness of sins. 

In a rather crude form, this truth is expressed in the doc- 
trine which teaches that merits have the power to cancel out 
their opposites. Moreover, if divine forgiveness is the be- 
stowal of grace, we can understand how vicarious sacrifices 
and the merits of others can benefit the soul. The enlight- 

3 1 1 Reflections on the Lord's Prayer /// 

ened person transforms not merely himself, but to some ex- 
tent the world around him. The unregenerate individual is 
more or less completely without real freedom; only the en- 
lightened are capable of genuinely free choices and creative 
acts. This being so, it is possible for them to modify for the 
better the destinies unfolding around them by inspiring the 
makers of these destinies with the wish and the power to 
give, so that they may become fit to receive the grace which 
will transform them and so deliver them from the fate they 
had been preparing for themselves. 

"Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; for 
thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory." 

The nature of the evil from which we pray to be delivered 
is defined by inference in the succeeding phrase. Evil consists 
in forgetting that kingdom, power and glory are God's and 
acting upon the insane and criminal belief that they are 
ours. So long as we remain average, sensual, unregenerate 
individuals, we shall constantly be tempted to think God- 
excluding thoughts and perform God-eclipsing actions. Nor 
do such temptations cease as soon as the path of enlighten- 
ment is entered. All that happens is that, with every advance 
achieved, the temptations become more subtle, less gross and 
obvious, more profoundly dangerous. Belial and Mammon 
have no power over the advanced; nor will they succumb 
when Lucifer offers them his more material baits, such as 
worldly power and dominion. But for souls of quality Luci- 
fer also prepares more rarefied temptations and many are 
those, even far advanced along the road to enlightenment, 
who have succumbed to spiritual pride. It is only to the per- 
fectly enlightened and the completely liberated that tempta- 
tions do not present themselves at all. 

The final phrases of the prayer re-affirm its central, domi- 
nant theme, which is that God is everything and that man, 
as man, is nothing. Indeed, man, as man, is less than noth- 
ing; for he is a nothing capable of evil, that is to say capable 
of claiming as his own the things that are God's and, by that 
act, cutting himself off from God. But though man, as man, 
is nothing and can make himself less than nothing by becom- 
ing evil, man as the knower and lover of God, man as the 
possessor of a latent, inalienable spark of godhead, is poten- 

VEDANTA For The Western World 312 

tially everything. In the words of Cardinal Brulle, "man is a 
nothing surrounded by God, indigent of God, capable of 
God and filled with God if he so desires." This is the central 
truth of all spiritual religion, the truth that is, so to say, the 
major premise of the Lord's Prayer. It is a truth which the 
ordinary unregenerate man or woman finds it hard to accept 
in theory and harder still to act upon. The great religious 
teachers have all thought and acted theocentrically; the mass 
of ordinary human beings think and act anthropocentrically. 
The prayer which comes naturally to such people is the 
prayer of petition, the prayer for concrete advantages and 
immediate help in trouble. How profoundly different this is 
from the prayer of an enlightened being! Such a being prays 
not at all for himself, but only that God may be worshipped, 
loved and known by him as God ought to be worshipped, 
loved and knownthat the latent and potential seed of 
reality within his own soul may become fully actualized. 
There is even a kind of irony to be found in the fact that this 
prayer of Christ'sthe theocentric prayer of a supremely en- 
lightened being should have become the prayer most fre- 
quently repeated by millions upon millions of men and 
women, who have only a very imperfect notion of what it 
means and who, if they fully realized its revolutionary sig- 
nificance, so immensely remote from the more or less kindly 
humanism by which they govern their own lives, might even 
feel rather shocked and indignant. But in the affairs of the 
spirit, it is foolish to think in terms of large numbers and 
"public opinion." It may be true that the Lord's Prayer is 
generally misunderstood, or not understood at all. Neverthe- 
less it is a good thing that it should remain the most familiar 
formulary used by a religion which, particularly in the more 
"liberal" of its contemporary manifestations, has wandered 
so far from the theocentrism of its founder, into an entirely 
heretical anthropocentrism or, as we now prefer to call it, 
"humanism." It remains with us, a brief and enigmatic docu- 
ment of the most uncompromising spirituality. Those who 
are dissatisfied with the prevailing anthropocentrism have 
only to look into its all too familiar, and therefore uncompre- 
hended depths, to discover the philosophy of life and the 
plan of conduct for which they have been looking hitherto 
in vain. 


The Sermon on the JVIount / 


EVERY GREAT TEACHER, no matter whether he is a Divine In- 
carnation or a prophet, or an illumined soul, has two sets of 
teachings one for the multitude and the other for his dis- 
ciples. The elephant has two sets of teeth: the tusks with 
which he defends himself from external difficulties, and the 
teeth with which he eats. The teacher of religion clears the 
path for his message, as it were, with his tusks; but he gives 
the inner truth of religion only to his intimate disciples. For 
religion is something which can actually be transmitted. A 
truly illumined teacher can transmit to us the energy and im- 
pulse which makes us unfold within ourselves. But the field 
must be fertile and the soil ready before the seed can be 
sown. The disciple must make himself ready and prepared. 

In the Upanishads we read: "The teacher must be wonder- 
ful and the disciple must be wonderful: where this combina- 
tion is found there grows the beautiful tree with flowers and 

We read in the Gita: "Some have actually looked upon the 
Atman and comprehended all its wonders. Others can only 
speak of it as wonderful, beyond their comprehension. 
Others know its wonder only by hearsay. And still others, 
though they hear, do not understand it at all." It is not that 
these truths are kept secret. They are all recorded. We read 
them, we memorize them: but still they do not sink deep 
into our own consciousness. Very few of us try to live them. 

When we study Christ's Sermon on the Mount, the first 
thing that strikes us is that He is not talking for the multi- 
tude. His disciples could grasp what He was teaching them 
not merely through His words, but also because He was per- 
sonally transmitting something to them something for which 
their hearts had already been prepared. 

VEDANTA For The Western World 314- 

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom 
of God." Christ's opening sentence speaks of this prepared- 
ness of the disciple, which should be his chief characteristic. 
Before the teaching can be given, before the consciousness of 
the disciple can be raised up, he must be poor in spirit. What 
does that really mean? In the Upanishads we read that the 
disciple must approach the teacher with a "straw in his 
mouth." This is to show that he is poor in spirit, open- 
hearted, ready to accept what the illumined soul has to offer 
him; and that he is free from the vanity of possessions, the 
vanity of learning, the vanity which makes an individual 
man say: "I am so-and-so." That vanity must be shaken off 
before we can learn. Sri Krishna says in the Gita: "Those 
illumined souls who have realized the Truth will instruct 
you in the knowledge of Brahman, if you will prostrate 
yourself before them, question them and serve them as a 

As we study the Sermon on the Mount, we shall gradually 
discover what are the conditions of discipleship. Once upon 
a time this is a true storya man came to a teacher and 
said: "Make me a disciple!" The teacher had spiritual in- 
sight, and he knew that the man was not yet ready to become 
a disciple; so he told him: "Do you know what you have to 
do to become a disciple?" The man said that he didn't. 
Would the teacher please tell him? "Oh," said the teacher, 
"you have to fetch water, dig the garden, gather fuel, and do 
many hours daily of physical work. Then you have to study 
for so many hours. This is a hard life. Are you willing to do 
all that?" Then the man said: "Now I know what the disciple 
has to do. Tell me, please, what does the teacher do?" "Oh, 
the teacher sits and gives forth the truth in his quiet way." 
"Ah," said the man, "now I understand. I don't want to be 
a disciple. Please make me a teacher!" We all want to be 
teachers. But before we become teachers we must be dis- 
ciples. We must humble ourselves. We must approach the 
teacher with the straw in our mouth. 

Swami Brahmananda once said: "Who is there ready to 
accept the truth of God? We are willing to give, but they 
come to us to buy vegetables, potatoes, eggplants, onions. We 

3 1 5 The Sermon on the *Mount / 

have the treasure within us to give them, but they don't want 
that treasure. 1 ' 

In Hindu philosophy it is taught that certain conditions 
must be fulfilled before we can receive the truth of God. 
These are: Discrimination, shunning ephemeral pleasures, 
acquiring the six treasures of life, and the desire for freedom 
from the bondage of life. 

First learn to discriminate between the eternal and the 
non-eternal. This discrimination is the most important thing 
of all. Why is it that we want to seek the truth of God? Be- 
cause we find that everything in the Universe, everything 
that we sense, perceive, know, and enjoy, is transient. There 
is something in our hearts which cannot remain satisfied with 
the transient. Those in whom discrimination has developed, 
discriminate consciously. When desires and impulses arise, 
they ask themselves: "Is this really eternal? Is this something 
abiding?" As this discrimination grows in you, you lose your 
thirst for the pleasures of the objective world. Man wants 
happiness above everything. He will run after happiness 
wherever he can get it. But, if he has this spiritual discrimi- 
nation, he will see that the pleasures of the external world 
are not really satisfactory because they are not abiding. And 
so he will shun them, and turn toward that abiding joy, that 
infinite happiness. Mere renunciation of desire does not 
help. In order to prevent the mind from running after ob- 
jects, a man must cultivate certain qualities in himself. 

These qualities are called in our Scriptures the Six Treas- 
ures. They are the true treasures of life. The first is tran- 
quillity of the mind, interior calmness, peace. Then comes 
sense-control, mastery over your passions. As long as we ro- 
main slaves to the senses and the mind, with its passions, and 
its restlessness, so long we cannot really desire God. The 
third treasuie is patience and forbearance. The next is burn- 
ing faith in the ideal. The heart must move toward its ideal 
with pleasure the pleasure is very important. When we 
move toward the objects of sense-attraction, we feel great 
pleasure in our hearts. We must find just as much pleasure 
in the search for God. It is no good merely saying: "Oh, yes, 
I believe in God/' That is not what is known as faith. But, 
if you really believe in God, then your heart will move to- 

VEDANTA For The Western World 3 1 6 

ward the ideal of God-realization with great enthusiasm. We 
must cultivate that. It doesn't come all at once. We have to 
cultivate all these treasures. 

Then comes self-surrender. And, finally, the desire for free- 
dom from the bondage of life. That is the most important 
thing of all that thirst, that longing for God and that desire 
for freedom from the things that hinder our approach to 

Christ, in His Sermon, as we shall see, speaks of these same 
conditions to be fulfilled in order that the purity of heart 
can be achieved and the truth of God may be revealed. But 
before we proceed on the subject, let me first try to explain 
the central note of the Sermon. 

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." "Be 
ye therefore perfect, even as the Father which is in Heaven 
is perfect." These two verses give the central note of the Ser- 
mon on the Mount. Whatever Scriptures one reads, one finds 
this same note, this same theme. See Godl Be ye therefore 
perfect! Know God! Realize Him! That is the one purpose 
and ideal of life. 

Swami Turiyananda one e told me that when he was a young 
boy he studied the Scriptures and philosophy, but nothing 
could satisfy him: he could not understand the purpose of 
life. Then one day in his study he came across a passage 
which says: "A man is born not to desire life in the world of 
senses, but to realize the bliss of an illumined soul who has 
attained his liberation/' And he told me that, as he read that 
passage from the writings of Sankara: "It just took away a 
burden from my heart." Later, of course, he met Sri Rama- 
krishna, and did enjoy that bliss while living. In the Upani- 
shads we read: "Blessed is he who realizes God in this life* 
If not, it is his greatest calamity." 

My Master often used to repeat to us this one thing: "First 
seek and find that ocean of immortal bliss!" Theologians to- 
day may argue whether one can find God or whether perfec- 
tion can be achieved or not, or what Christ meant by know- 
ing the truth or seeing God: but this much I can say definitely 
that when Christ spoke to His disciples He meant literally 
that God could be seen in their present lives. And the dis- 
ciples were hungering just for that truth, to know God, to 

317 5TA0 Sermon on the Mount / 

be perfect even as the Father in Heaven is perfect. How can 
a spiritual aspirant who is hungering for the truth be satis- 
fied with theology, with philosophy, with doctrines and 
creeds? Christ was not teaching any creed, He was not teach- 
ing any doctrine, but He was teaching how to know and 
realize God. The disciples who were sitting at His feet knew 
that the first thing in spiritual life is to know God while liv- 
ing in this world, not after this body is left behind, but here 
and nowl That is what is meant by religion. That is the 
central note of the Sermon on the Mount. And the chief 
method of knowing God is told in the verse: "Blessed are 
the pure in heart." The Beatitudes and the Sermon explain 
how that purity of heart is to be achieved. But we must re- 
member that seeing God and attaining that perfection is not 
possible in what we call our normal life and consciousness. 
Nobody has seen God with these eyes. There is no perfection 
if we live in this life of the senses. 

In the Gita we read how Sri Krishna was teaching his dis- 
ciple Arjuna the way to realize God, and how Sri Krishna 
said: "But with these eyes you cannot see Him. I shall give 
you that divine sight." So that divine sight we have to ac- 
quire. The Hindu philosophers call it Turiya, the fourth 
state of consciousness. We have to go beyond this normal 
state of consciousness from waking, dreaming, and dream- 
less sleep and wake up to that fourth state, the transcenden- 
tal, in which the divine sight opens. 

If you gp to the source, to the actual founders of the 
world's great religions, to Christ, to Buddha, to Krishna, or 
to Ramakrishna, you will find that one truth expressed: 
Realize God in this life. And in every religion you will find 
two principles: there is the ideal to be realized and there is 
the method of realization: there is the purity of heart which 
leads to the realization of God. These are the two principles 
which Christ and every other great teacher taught. All the 
rest of their teachings are just ways and means by which we 
can attain to that purification of our hearts, so that the Truth 
of God can be revealed within ourselves. 


The Sermon on the MountII 


CHRIST HAS TAUGHT us THAT, in order to see God, we must 
be pure in heart. What is meant by this purity? We all know 
of individuals whom we would describe as pure, in an ethical 
sense: but these people have not seen God. What is the 

Try to think of God now, this very moment. What do you 
find? The thought of God passes through your mind, per- 
haps, like a flash; then all kinds of distractions begin. You 
find you are thinking of everything else in the universe but 
God. That is the test of true purity, as Christ understood the 
word: can a man, without any distraction whatever, keep his 
mind fixed upon love for God? Why are there these distrac- 
tions? Because the mind remains impure from birth to birth 
impure, because it has gathered so many impressions of so 
many kinds, good and bad. 

These impressions have to be removed completely: to re- 
move them, we have to know their cause. Yoga psychology 
defines five rcfot causes of all our impressions. 

First, is ignorance, in a universal sense: this is the chief of 
all causes of impurity of the mind. It is natural to all man- 
kind: because of it, we do not see God. Ignorance is our 
normal state of consciousness. God is within us, and all 
around us: we are carrying Him with us all the time. But, 
instead of seeing God, we see this universe, and believe it to 
be the ultimate reality just as a man who sees a rope lying 
on the ground in the dusk may believe it, in the twilight of 
his ignorance, to be a snake. 

Then there is the sense of ego, which makes me think of 
myself as an individual being, and say: I must possess, I must 
enjoy, I must have this and that. This sense of ego separates 
us from one another, and from the reality of God. 

319 The Sermon on the Mount // 

From the sense of ego, we develop attachment and aver- 
sion: I want one thing, I hate another. That desiie, and that 
hatred, are both obstacles in the path to God. 

The final cause of our mental impurity is our clinging to 
life, our fear of death and this is natural to all, good and 
bad alike. Buddha calls it Tanha, the thirst for life, and 
Christ refers to it in the saying: "He who loves his life shall 
lose it." Only the illumined saint has no sense of ego, no 
attachment, no hatred, and no fear of death; they have all 
vanished. * 

Even if we could have spiritual enlightenment instantly, 
this very moment, we shouldn't like it, we should draw back 
at the borderline. Even if we have been seeking God, we 
draw back at the moment when we feel we are about to have 
the vision of Him: we are afraid, because we cling to this 
life and this consciousness. We are so afraid of losing this 
everyday consciousness, even though it means passing into 
that wider infinite consciousnessin comparison with which 
our normal perceptions are, as the Gita says, "like a thick 
night and a sleep." 

Swami Vivekananda himself, although he was a pure soul 
who was hungering for God, experienced that same fear. 
When he first came to Sri Ramakrishna, the Master gave him 
a touch, and his spiritual vision began to open. Then Vive- 
kananda cried out: "What are you doing to me? I have my 
father and mother at home!" And Sri Ramakrishna said: 
"Oh, you tool" He saw that even this great soul was subject 
to this universal clinging to our normal consciousness. 

Before we are ready to realize God, we must purify our 
hearts, we must prepare ourselves. Christ teaches us how to 
do this. First of all, we must free ourselves from the vanity 
of earthly ego and possession, and from the vanity of our 
learning. If an aspirant feels that he is rich in the world's 
goods, or that he knows a great deal, he cannot make spir- 
itual progress: he has to feel, as it were, alone that every- 
thing is in vain. "Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall 
be comforted." When we feel that we are poor in spirit, then 
we feel that real lack, that loss of God within ourselves. We 
feel the burden of our ignorance. Yes, we all mourn, no 
doubt we mourn the loss of worldly pleasures and posses- 

VEDANTA For The Western World 320 

sions but that is not the kind of mourning that Christ 
speaks of. The mourning which Christ calls " blessed" is very 
rare because very few people feel this spiritual loss, this 
loneliness. Most of us are quite satisfied with the surface-life 
of this world. In the back of our minds, perhaps, we feel the 
sense of something incomplete but still we have the hope 
that this lack can be filled by our senses, our mind, and the 
sense-objects of the world. 

Sri Ramakrishna used to say: "Men weep rivers of tears 
because a son is not born or because they cannot get riches. 
But who sheds even a single tear-drop because he has not 
been fortunate enough to see the Lord?" It is our ignorance 
which gives us this false sense of values. Sankaracharya, in 
explaining the nature of this ignorance, says that the True 
Self, the Spirit, is opposed to matter as light is opposed to 
darkness. Yet, such is the inexplicable power of ignorance, 
that even the wisest amongst us habitually identifies the spirit 
with matter, the True Self with the ego. It is very easy to 
understand, intellectually, that you are different from your 
bodyjust as the house you live in is different from you and 
yet, when the body is diseased, we say: "I'm sick." Intellec- 
tually, we can understand that we are different from our 
minds; and yet, if a wave of happiness or suffering arises in 
the mind, we say: "I am happy, I am miserable/' Also, 
we identify ourselves with our parents, children, relatives, 
friends: anything happening to them seems to be happening 
to us. We identify ourselves with our possessions: if we lose 
our wealth, we feel as if we had lost ourselves, there is noth- 
ing left to live for. 

But when we begin to feel the lack within ourselves, when 
we begin to mourn as Christ wished us to mourn, when we 
shed even a few tears for God then that comfort comes, then 
we know that God can be realized. Sri Ramakrishna passed 
many days longing for the moment when he would realize 
God in the form of Mother Kali. And every evening, when 
the temple belb rang for vespers, he would exclaim: "O 
Mother, another day has passed and I have not seen Youl" 
That is true mourning! 

"Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth." 
What is the cause of our delusion? Our sense of ego. This 

321 The Sermon on the Mount // 

egotism in us must be overcome. Therefore blessed are the 
meek. But why does Christ say that they shall inherit the 
earth? At first sight, this seems difficult to understand. 
Among the Yoga aphorisms, we find one which says: "The 
man who is confirmed in non-stealing becomes the master of 
all riches/' What is meant by "non-stealing?" It means that 
we must give up this egotistic delusion that we can possess 
things, that anything can belong exclusively to us as indi- 
viduals. We may say of ourselves: "But we don't steal any- 
thing! We are good people. Whatever we have, we have 
worked for and earned. It belongs to us by right." But the 
truth is that nothing belongs to us, nothing at all. As soon as 
we realize this, as soon as we give up our deluded, individual 
claims to this object or that then we find that, in the truest 
sense, everything does belong to us, after all. We inherit the 
earth. Conquerors, who try to become masters of the world 
by force of arms, never inherit anything except worry and 
trouble and headaches; misers who accumulate huge wealth 
are only chained to their gold, they never really possess it. 
But the man who has given up his ego experiences the satis- 
faction without the misery of possession. Many people dislike 
this saying of Christ's because they think that the meek man 
can never achieve anything. They think that there is no 
pleasure to be had from life unless you are aggressive. When 
they are told to give up their ego, to be meek, they imagine 
that they will lose everything. Christ says noby losing your- 
self, you will gain everything: you will inherit the earth. 

"Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after right- 
eousness, for they shall be filled." That is the next stage, after 
the mourning. The longing for God becomes more intense, 
until it is a raging hunger and a burning thirst. That right- 
eousness cannot mean what we ordinarily think of as moral 
virtues or good qualities; but that righteousness which is 
righteousness itself, the very essence. In Sanskrit, it is called 
"the-goodness-itself" in other words, God. The word God is 
derived from that which is goodness itself not relative good 
as opposed to evil, or relative virtue as opposed to vice. So 
the hunger and thirst after righteousness is a hunger and 
thirst after God Himself. 

"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy/* 

FED ANT A For The Western World 322 

There is an aphorism in the Yoga sutras which corresponds 

to this: "Friendship, mercy, gladness and indifference, when 

they are taught with regard to happy, unhappy, good, and 

evil subjects, respectively, calm the restlessness of the heart." 

So, to be merciful is one of the conditions necessary for the 

purification of our hearts. Jealousy and hatred exist in almost 

all of us, because they are linked up with our ego-sense, 

which is born of ignorance. How are we to overcome them? 

By thinking contrary thoughts. When somebody is happy, 

you should not feel jealous of him; you should try to be 

happy with him, by realizing your friendship, your unity. 

When somebody is unhappy we should not be glad; we 

should feel sympathy and be merciful. Be glad, not envious, 

when a man is good; when he is bad, do not hate him. You 

do not have to love the evil in him, but be indifferent to it. 

Any thought of hatred even so-called "righteous hatred" of 

evil will raise a wave of hatred and evil in our own minds, 

causing greater ignorance and greater restlessness, so that we 

cannot think of God, or love Him, until it has subsided. 

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the 
Children of God/' It is only when you have attained to the 
vision of God that you become a child of God and a peace- 
maker. Of course, we are children of God in ignorance, also; 
but, until we have known God, we can never make and bring 
peace. There is a passage in the Bhagavatam which says: "He 
in whose heart God has become manifested brings peace, and 
cheer, and delight everywhere he goes." I am reminded of a 
life that I have seen the life of my Master, Swami Brah- 
mananda. There was something peculiar in him which I 
have found nowhere else: whoever came into his presence 
would feel a joyous upliftment. You felt that you did not 
belong to this world, you belonged to God. We call it Utsav, 
a "celebration of joy": wherever he was, it was like a festival. 
In one of the monasteries of our Order there were a num- 
ber of young monks, not yet trained, fresh from schools and 
colleges. When they had been together a while, their old 
tendencies began to work, and they formed groups, and 
started to quarrel amongst themselves. So a senior Swami of 
our Order went to investigate the whole affair: he questioned 
everybody and soon found out who were the ringleaders. 

323 The Sermon on the Mount // 

Then he told Swami Brahmananda, who was then the head 
of our Order, that those boys were unfitted for monastic life, 
and that they must be expelled. My Master answered: "Do 
nothing about it. I am coming to see about it myself." And 
he did. When he arrived, he didn't question anybody: he 
simply started living in the monastery; and he only insisted 
on one thing that all the boys should meditate regularly in 
his presence. Then he began to instruct them, without mak- 
ing any distinction between individuals, good or bad; and, 
gradually the whole atmosphere of the place was lifted. The 
boys forgot their quarrels, because they had no time for such 
things, any more. And when, after two or three months, he 
left, there was perfect harmony in the monastery. Nobody 
had to be expelled. They were transformed. 

When I first joined the monastery, there were two young 
men who quarrelled and came to blows. One of the older 
Swamis saw this, and told Swami Brahmananda that it would 
be better to send them away. But Swami Brahmananda an- 
swered: "Brother, they have not come here as perfect souls. 
They have come to you to attain that perfection. Do some- 
thing for them so that they will not fight and quarrel." Then 
this great Swami said: "You are right." So he gathered all of 
us boys together and came to Swami Brahmananda, and 
prostrated himself before him, and said: "Now, brother, I 
have brought them all. You must transform them." And, one 
by one, we went and prostrated ourselves at the feet of our 
Master. All he did was to raise his hand over our heads. And, 
in every one of us there came such a feeling of exaltation 
that we forgot any wish to quarrel or fight. That is the way a 
real peace-maker affects us. When men's hearts are uplifted by 
his presence, they cannot fight, because they are all engaged 
in the love of God. 

"Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' 
sake, for. theirs is the kingdom of Heaven." Men of the world 
do not understand the value of the spiritual life. They mock 
at the spiritual aspirant, and sometimes revile him and try 
to do him an injury, but a truly spiritual soul does not react 
to that: he sees the unity, he sees the ignorance, he is merci- 
ful, but he does not choose to please the people of the world. 
There is the story of a young monk, who was on his travels. 

VEDANTA For The Western World 324 

He got tired, and lay down under a tree. He had no pillow, 
so he got some bricks and rested his head upon them. Some 
women were going along the road to the river, to fetch water, 
and they saw the young monk lying there, and they said to 
each other: "Look that young man has become a monk, and 
yet he can't do without the idea of a pillow. He has to have 
bricks instead." They went on their way, and the monk said 
to himself: "They were quite right to criticize me/' So he 
threw the bricks away, and lay down again with his head on 
the earth. Presently, the women returned, and saw that the 
bricks had gone; and they exclaimed contemptuously: "That's 
a fine sort of monk! He feels insulted because we said he had 
a pillow. Now, look he has thrown his pillow away!" Then 
the monk said to himself: "If I have a pillow, they criticize 
me, and if I don't have a pillow, that doesn't suit them 
either you can't please them." No really spiritual man will 
do any action with the idea of making a good impression 
upon others, or in order to create prestige for himself. He 
may sometimes feel just the opposite that, if he has to go 
contrary to the whole world for the sake of truth he will do 
it, and do it alone; he does not care what others think of 
him. He tries only to please God, no one else. That must be 
the attitude of a spiritual aspirant to maintain poise, tran- 
quillity, patience and forbearance in the midst of the con- 
flicts and contradictions of life. 


The Sermon on the ZMount /// 


"YE ARE THE SALT OF THE EARTH: but if the salt have lost his 
savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good 
for nothing, but to be cast out and to be trodden under foot 
of men." 

In India, when a disciple comes to a teacher, the teacher 
tries first of all to give him a firm faith in himself, and a feel- 
ing that weakness and cowardice and failure have no part in 
his true nature. Almost the first words that Sri Krishna says 
to Arjuna, in the second book of the Gita, are: "Do not be 
so weak-spirited. It is unworthy of you." 

But, at the same time, we must remember the beatitude: 
"Blessed are the meek." Meekness and faith in onesself must 
go together. This faith which the teacher tries to arouse in 
his disciple is not faith in the lower self, the ego, but faith 
in the higher Self, faith in God within. With that faith 
comes self-surrender, and the strength which is gained 
through freedom from ego. 

Sri Ramakrishna brings out this truth. He used to tell how 
Radha, the chief of the shepherdesses, whom Krishna loved 
best, became apparently very egotistic. The other shepherd- 
esses came to Krishna and complained about her; so Krishna 
told them to go to Radha and ask her what kind of ego she 
had. And Radha replied: "Certainly, I have an ego. But 
whose is it? It is not mine, for everything I have belongs to 
Krishna." A man who has surrendered everything to God 
has no ego in the ordinary sense of the word, but he has 
strong faith in the true self within him. 

This saying of Jesus: "Ye are the salt of the earth . . ." re- 
minds me of a saying my Master, Swami Brahmananda, used 
to quote to us: "You have the grace of God, you have the 
grace of the guru, and you have the grace of God's devotees, 


VEDANTA For The Western World 326 

but for the lack of one grace you may be cast out," What is 
that one grace? It is the grace of your own mind. If, in spite 
of all those graces which would otherwise make you "the 
salt of the earth," you lack the grace of your own mind, you 
may be cast out. So we must struggle hard to surrender our- 
selves completely and wholeheartedly to God in order that 
the "salt/* which is His grace, may not lose its savour. 

An Avatar like Jesus gathers pure souls around him, and 
teaches them not only by word of mouth but by actual trans- 
mission of spiritual power. "Ye are the light of the world," 
he tells them. "A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. 
Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, 
but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in 
the house." Here we find that Christ was, as it were, trans- 
mitting this illumination to his disciples. We can only be- 
come that light of the world if we obtain illumination by 
uniting ourselves with the light which dwells in the hearts 
of all. Only such illumined ones are fitted to be true teachers 
of mankind: they alone can carry on the message of an 
Avatar. When Sri Ramakrishna met anyone who wished to 
teach the word of God, he would ask: "Have you the Divine 
Commission?" Only he whose heart is illumined can receive 
God's commission, His direct command to teach. Religion 
degenerates when it is taught by the ignorant. One may be 
learned in the scriptures like the scribes and pharisees, but 
unless one has known God one cannot teach. It is no good 
relying on your degree at a theological college: book-learning 
cannot give you illumination. 

How, then, does one obtain illumination? By purification 
of the heart. When your heart has been truly purified, you 
will see God; and when you have seen God, your light shines 
forth and gives comfort to all. You do not have to go out and 
look for disciples, then. As Sri Ramakrishna used to say, 
when the lotus blossoms, the bees come from all around, of 
their own accord, to gather the honey. "Make that lotus 
blossom!" he used to tell his disciples. When such an illu- 
mined soul appears, and spiritual aspirants gather around 
him, they cannot do otherwise than glorify God, because in 
his presence, they feel the presence of the Father. This is very 
easy to understand: there is no mystery about it. When you 

327 *fhe Sermon on the ^Mount /// 

go to see a lawyer, what kind of thoughts come into your 
mind? Thoughts about legal matters. With a doctor, you 
think about sickness and medicine. These thoughts come to 
us because the person we are with at that moment is living in 
that particular atmosphere. So, also, with a truly spiritual 
man: you may not know anything about him, but this is the 
test: when you come into his presence, the thought of God 
will come to you, because he has that light. That was what I 
experienced, in my own life, as a young boy. I did not know 
anything about God, until I had the blessed fortune to meet 
and associate with holy men who had seen that light of the 
world, and in their presence I felt joyful, and I could not 
help thinking of God and loving Him, even though they 
might be talking of something quite different. This is what 
Jesus was speaking of when he said: "Let your light so shine 
before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify 
your Father which is in Heaven." 

Then he says: "Think not that I am come to destroy the 
law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. 
For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot 
or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the lav/, till all be 
fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least 
commandments and shall teach men so, he shall be called the 
least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and 
teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of 

In the Gita, Sri Krishna tells Arjuna: "Whenever righteous- 
ness is forgotten, and unrighteousness prevails, then I body 
myself forth." And why? In order to teach men once more 
the eternal truths they have neglected and forgotten. That 
is why Jesus was bodied forth into this world. He tells us so, 
himself. Those who insist on regarding the life and teachings 
of Jesus as unique are bound to have great difficulty in 
understanding that life and those teachings. Christ's life can 
be truly understood only in the light of other great lives and 
teachings. No Divine Incarnation ever came to refute the re- 
ligion taught by another, but to fulfil all religions. Because 
the truth of God is an eternal truth. If, in all the history of 
the world, Jesus had been the sole originator of the truth of 
God, then it would be no truth; for truth cannot be origi- 

VEDANTA For The Western World 328 

nated, it is an existing fact. But if Jesus simply unfolded and 
interpreted that truth, then it follows that many others must 
have done so before him, and that many will do so after him. 
And, in fact, as we read the teachings of Jesus, we find that 
he wishes all of us to unfold that truth. He has come, he 
declares, not to destroy the eternally existing truth, but to 
restate it, to give it new life by presenting it in a new way. 
Each successive age needs a new and characteristic presenta- 
tion of the truths of religion. For these presentations, once 
they have been spoken or written down, are like cut flowers: 
they slowly begin to shrivel, they become dry and dead. Men 
often treasure dead flowers, for the memory which clings to 
them, and this is very natural: but one must not forget that 
they are dead. Those who cling too devotedly to the dead 
flowers, to the letter of the law, lose consciousness of its un- 
dying spirit. Those are the scribes and pharisees: the jealous 
guardians of tradition which has become obsolete. That is 
why Christ says: "Except your righteousness shall exceed the 
righteousness of the scribes and pharisees, ye shall in no case 
enter into the kingdom of heaven/' 

The pharisees are very ethical upright men in their own 
way, but they cling to forms and outward observances, and 
this makes them inclined to intolerance, narrowness and dog- 
matism. The righteousness which exceeds the righteousness 
of the scribes and pharisees is the very opposite of this. It is 
an ethic which is based, not on rules of conduct and lists of 
sins with their punishments, but upon the intuition of the 
heart, which cares little for commandments and texts and 
regulations, and knows only one thing: to love God is to love 
all men. "Whosoever," Christ tells us, "is angry with his 
brother without a cause shall be in danger of judgment." It's 
not enough just to obey the old commandment: "Thou shalt 
not kill." Even the mere thought of killing, the anger, is as 
deadly as the act. You cannot love God and hate your neigh- 
bour. It is not possible. If you really love God, you will find 
Him in everyone, so how can you hate another? 

"Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there 
rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee; leave 
there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be recon- 
ciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift." 

329 *fhe Sermon on the Mount III 

Until we actually reach oneness with God, it is, of course,, 
quite natural that we should have misunderstandings and 
quarrels with each other. But we must not let that resent- 
ment stay with us, or it will eat into our hearts like cancer. 
We must be reconciled as soon as possible. There is only 
one way to feel sincerely reconciled, and that is to suppress 
our own ego. If you can do that, you will find that you im- 
mediately gain something spiritually. Try to see God in all 
beings, and love Him in all. Humble yourselfnot before 
your adversary, but before God within him. Never humble 
yourself before anyone but God. That is how hatred is driven 
out, and love of God takes its place. If you keep that hatred 
in your own heart, it will hurt nobody except yourself. 

"Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou 
shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That who- 
soever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed 
adultery with her already in his heart. And if thy right eye 
offend thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee: for it is profi- 
table for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not 
that thy whole body should be cast into hell/' 

Here Jesus is telling of the necessity for an inner check, an 
inner control of the passions. Without that control, it is im- 
possible to reach spiritual illumination. Nowadays, every- 
thing has become externalized; all our thinking is outward; 
even our religion is taught entirely in terms of external ac- 
tion. Today, the great teaching of all churches is that we 
must serve Mankind: even those who do not believe in re- 
ligion or in God believe in this. But nearly everybody seems 
to have forgotten what Christ himself taught. Yes, certainly, 
he taught service to our fellowmen but in what spirit? In 
the spirit of love toward God. He taught that our action must 
be turned inward as well as outward. We forget that. Yet, 
without that inward regard, without that loving dedication 
of all our work to God, what does morality amount to? Just 
sodal behavior. 

This is a fundamental principle of spiritual life: that you 
must control the mind. Merely refraining from evil actions 
is not enough: evil thoughts must be checked, as well. We 
may pretend to ourselves that it doesn't matter what we 
think, as long as we act rightly. But, when the test comes, we 

VEDANTA For the Western World 330 

always betray ourselves, for it is the thought which really 
counts most. When the test comes, if our thoughts are full 
of hatred, that hatred will express itself in acts of violence 
and destruction and murder. Standing up in the pulpit and 
talking about love will not help us, it will not stop war and 
cruelty, when there is no love in our hearts. Love will not 
come to us because we just say we have it, or hypothetically 
try to impress other people with the seeming sweetness of 
our natures. Love comes only when we have controlled our 
inward passions and subdued our ego. Then love of God 
grows in us, and with it love of our fellowmen. But the love 
of God has to be won through self-discipline, and we have 
neglected to practise this discipline. We have forgotten the 
aim of lifeto realise, know and see God. That is our whole 
difficulty. That is why, when Jesus says: "Love your ene- 
mies," we are unable to obey him, even if we wish to do so. 
We don't know how. 

There are, of course, many teachers who would say: "Yes, 
indeed, we agree: an inner check on the passions is certainly 
necessary. Our young people must use self-control." But very 
few of those teachers could answer why self-control is needed. 
That is why the young people of today question them, and 
even begin to suspect that the teachers are jealous spoil- 
sports, who hate pleasure for its own sake, because they are 
too old to take part in it themselves. "What does it matter," 
ask the young, "what we do, as long as we don't harm any- 
body else?" They are perfectly honest and sincere about this. 
How are we going to answer them? 

It is no use telling them that their pleasures are wicked, or 
that it is wrong to be happy, because they will never believe 
you: their instincts tell them that you are lying. When you 
talk about Sin, they will disregard you; and they will con- 
tinue to do so. But if you stop telling them that they are sin- 
ful, and begin to tell them that God is inside each one of 
them; if you hold up the ideal of Self-realization, God- 
realization, and show them that the struggle for self-disci- 
pline is hard but exciting, like training for athletics; if you 
show them that by dissipating themselves they are cutting 
themselves off from the greatest joy in life, a joy far greater 
than all their worldly pleasures then you will be talking a 

331 The Sermon on the Mount /// 

language they can understand. They may be sceptical, but 
some of them, at least, will want to try it for themselves. 

The ideal of continence has been so misrepresented in this 
country that nearly everybody thinks of it as something 
negative, as a "don't." Don't be incontinent, the churches 
tell us: it is a sin. And a famous athlete, in a magazine article, 
wrote that the men of the armed forces should stay continent, 
because otherwise they might catch some disease. In this 
way, for the great majority of people, who instinctively hate 
"dont's," the idea of continence has become unattractive, 
and associated with repression, gloom, and cowardice; while 
the idea of incontinence becomes more and more attractive, 
and is associated with freedom, fun and courage. 

This is a terrible and destructive misunderstanding, which, 
if it is not corrected, will gradually poison the whole national 
life. Unless the boys and girls of this country can be taught 
the vital connection between continence and spiritual life, 
they will gradually waste all their powers, they will lose the 
possibility of spiritual growth, and with it all creativeness, 
all awareness, all the higher faculties. Continence is not re- 
pression, it is a storing up of energy and an application of 
that energy to better uses. Sex-energy controlled becomes 
spiritual energy. To one who is continent, spiritual growth 
comes quickly and easily. That is why every great religion 
has taught continence not as a "don't," not as a negative 
commandment, but as a positive step towards a fuller, richer 

You may think that, by being continent, you will lose the 
greatest pleasure this world has to offer: but the strange fact 
is that you will not really lose anything. As the sex-energy is 
conserved and as it becomes transformed, you will find a new 
and much more intense pleasure growing up inside you; and 
that is the joy of coming closer and closer to union with God. 


The Sermon on the ^Mount 


"YE HAVE HEARD that it hath been said, 'An eye for an eye, and 
a tooth for a tooth/ But I say unto you, 'Resist not evil: but 
whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him 
the other also. . . .' Ye have heard that it hath been said, 
'Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy/ But I 
say unto you, 'Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, 
do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which 
despitefully use you, and persecute you. 

Now this truth that we should love our enemies and not 
resist evilis the highest truth which has been taught by 
every religion. Nevertheless, it is a truth which is very un- 
popular, and one which most people find it nearly impossible 
to understand and practice. In fact, Christ himself, after 
teaching us this truth about non-resistance, goes on to say: 
"Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in 
Heaven is perfect." In other words, the practice of this truth 
in our own lives would make us perfect; and, indeed, only 
he who is perfect, he who has reached that Unity with God, 
who is able to see one Divine Existence everywhere, can prac- 
tice non-resistance and Universal Love. 

Once a young disciple of Sri Ramakrishna was crossing 
the Ganges in a ferry boat from Calcutta on his way to visit 
his Master. The other passengers in the boat were speaking 
against Sri Ramakrishna, saying that he was crazy, and a fake 
who misled young men. At first, when the disciple heard this, 
he argued with them mildly, saying: "If you knew Him you 
would not talk aoout Him like that. He is a very Holy man. 
Besides, he is my Master, so I must ask you not to speak ill of 
Him in my presence. 1 ' But this mildness only encouraged the 
critics to further attack. They began to say the most sarcastic 
and unpleasant things they could think of. Then the young 


333 Tihe Sermon on the *Mount IV 

disciple got very angry. He jumped to his feet, and began to 
rock the boat, exclaiming: "If you don't stop, I'll upset this 
boat and drown you all!" The passengers were scared. They 
saw that the disciple was an athletic young man, well able 
to do what he threatened. Not another word was said against 
Sri Ramakrishna during the rest of the trip. Later, when the 
disciple told his Master about this incident, Sri Ramakrishna 
was displeased with him. "Why should you care," he asked, 
"whether people praise me or blame me?" And he taught 
him never to offer violence under any circumstances. How- 
ever, on another occasion, another of Sri Ramakrishna's dis- 
ciples was traveling by the same boat, and once again th 
passengers were talking against Sri Ramakrishna. The dis- 
ciple begged them to stop, but they would not listen. So he 
kept quiet. Later, when he reported this to his Master, Sri 
Ramakrishna reproved him severely. "WhatI" he exclaimed: 
"You call yourself my disciple, and you let them slander me 
in your presence? Didn't you have the courage and the 
strength to force them to stop?" 

Here we find Sri Ramakrishna giving what appears to be 
altogether contradictory advice. His reason for doing so was, 
of course, that he was dealing with two separate individuals. 
He wished to correct the over-aggressiveness of the one and 
the timidity of the other. Referring to this same problem, he 
told a parable. Once upon a time, there was a holy man who 
came to a village; and the villagers warned him that he must 
not go along a certain path because a venomous snake always 
lay there. "He won't hurt me," said the holy man, and went 
on his way. Sure enough, the snake presently reared its head, 
hissing and ready to strike, but when it saw the holy man it 
prostrated itself humbly at his feet and asked to become his 
disciple. Then the holy man taught it to give up the idea of 
hating and biting and killing others. The snake, having re- 
ceived initiation, went off blissfully to its hole to pray and 
meditate according to instructions. The holy man proceeded 
on his way. Soon, however, the boys of the village discovered 
this change in the character of the snake. Knowing that it 
was harmless, they would attack it with sticks and stones 
whenever it came out of its hole, but the snake would never 
strike back. After a while, the snake became so weak from its 

FED ANT A For The Western World 334 

injuries that it could scarcely crawl, and retired in its hole 
altogether. When next the holy man came to that village, he 
was told that the snake was dead. "That's impossible/' said 
the holy man. "It cannot die until it has attained the su- 
preme realization of God." So he went to the snake's hole 
and called it, and the snake came squirming out, crippled 
from the blows it had received and terribly thin because it 
was not getting enough to 'eat. The holy man questioned it 
about the reason for its condition, and it said: "I did just as 
you told me, Master. The boys beat me, but I wouldn't bite 
them. I just lay there silent and suffered all their torments." 
The snake expected to be praised for its obedience. To its 
great surprise, however, the holy man got quite cross: "Idiotl" 
he cried: "I told you not to bite. Did I tell you not to hiss?" 

Sri Ramakrishna's meaning in this parable is that house- 
holders who live in the world are still bound to love their 
neighbor and their enemy equally, and to abstain from 
violence; but this does not mean that they are to be so soft 
and simple as to invite violence from others. The goody- 
goody man who lets himself be cheated and tricked and 
pushed around, is not being saintly. Most often, he is merely 
giving way to weakness, laziness, and cowardice. If such a 
man arouses the aggressive instinct of another, then he shares 
the guilt in that aggression. Those who are perfect alone can 
practice non-violence in its absolute form. The rest of us 
have to hiss now and then. 

Indian thought has always pointed out that there are 
gradations of duty. The duty of one kind of man is not the 
same as the duty of another. At both ends of the scale, we 
find apparent inaction; but a whole world lies between the 
stillness of the stone and the stillness of the saint. The way 
upward from inertia to illumination passes through the 
sphere of action, and we cannot miss out any of the steps if 
we are to have true spiritual growth. First gain the power 
to resist: then con rol and renounce that power. And remem- 
ber always: non-resistance is the highest ideal of all. There 
must be no compromise with regard to that. 

"Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be 
seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your father 
which is in Heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, 

335 ^*A0 Sermon on the ffdount IV 

do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in 
the Synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory 
of men. Verily I say unto you, 'They have their reward/ But 
when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy 
right hand doeth: that thy alms may be in secret: and thy 
father which seeth these secrets himself shall reward thee 

This brings us to the law of Karma, and what the Gita 
calls "the fruits of action." I do some good deed for you and 
I get my reward. Whether you yourself give me that reward 
or not does not matter. If I do good, I shall receive good in 
return. If I do bad, bad will come back to me. That is the 
law. Those are "the fruits of action." But in order that we 
may reach perfection which Christ called "purity of heart" 
we must free ourselves from all the fruits of action, the good 
as well as the bad. We must purify our minds from every 
kind of impression and tendency for good actions create 
tendencies also. Therefore the Gita teaches that we must 
learn to work for the work's sake only for God's sake with- 
out fixing our desire upon the results. We must turn all our 
work into worship of God. Then, and only then, shall we 
free ourselves from the wheel of cause and effect, deed and 
reward, and obtain the Infinite. 

Next, Christ begins to teach us how to pray. He tells u$ 
to pray secretly, "And when thou prayest, enter into thy 
closet, and when thou hast shut the door, pray to thy Father 
which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall 
reward thee openly." And what is this reward? It is God 
Himself. If you want anything less than God, you can have 
it. The good fruits of this world can be earned by observing 
the law of Karma. If you want a reputation for holiness, then 
go out into some public place and pray where everybody can 
see you. But if you truly worship God for Himself, wanting 
Him alone, then never mind the world, never mind whether 
it blames or admires you, go apart into a secret place, and ask 
for Him. You can be certain that He will give Himself to 

And now, Christ gives us an actual prayer which we can 
use The Lord's Prayer. "Our Father which art in Heaven," 
it begins: "Hallowed be Thy name." 

VEDANTA For The Western World 336 

Let us first try to understand what is meant by this word 
"Heaven." All the religions of the world teach us that heaven 
is within. Now, what does that really mean? If Heaven is 
within us, where is the earth? Is that within us too? The 
answer is Yes. You are in earth and you are also in Heaven. 
You do not know that you are in Heaven, but it is there 
nevertheless. What is the earth? In what sense are we "in it"? 
The earth-consciousness is our physical consciousness: our 
consciousness of time, space, and relativity, our consciousness 
of change. What is Heaven? That which abides forever. In 
Sanskrit, the word earth means that which is always moving, 
always changing. In the three states of consciousness wak- 
ing, dreaming, and deep sleep we have a sense of identity 
and continuity. It is like a river, always changing, ever flow- 
ing. But, on either side of the river, there are as it were two 
banks: these may be thought of as the unchangeable con- 
sciousness which is the Atman, which is God, which is 
Heaven. So when we say that Heaven is within, this does not 
mean that Heaven has a spatial existence in or outside the 
body, but that it is Consciousness itself. And when we say 
that God is Immanent this does not mean that God is iden- 
tical with the Cosmos, or that He is extra-cosmic; but that 
God is supra-cosmic. We have first to recognize Heaven 
within ourselves; then we can find it everywhere. 

The experience of the saint teaches that, when God is 
realized, there is no consciousness of the body at all, neither 
of inside nor of outside. That is because the saint has gone 
beyond space and time and relativity. But because we cannot 
have this consciousness all in a moment we should begin by 
thinking of God as dwelling within our hearts, and praying 
to Him there. That is as near as we can go in a relative way, 
using words and ideas which belong to the relative plane of 
life. The absolute truth about God is beyond all language, 
all expression. We are like people living far from the ocean. 
One of us wishes to direct the other how to get there. He 
cannot say: "That is the ocean itself," but only: "If you fol- 
low that road and climb to the top of that hill over th6re, 
then you will get a view of the ocean." 

Christ tells us that our Father is in Heaven. In every age, 
people ask for proof of the existence of God. But there is 

337 Th* Sermon on the Mount IV 

only one way to prove the existence of God, and that is to see 
Him. All attempts to arrive at a proof by means of reasoning 
are futile because what you are trying to prove is only the 
existence of your idea of God; and so, even if you could pos- 
sibly make such a proof, how could you guarantee that your 
idea and the Reality of God would correspond? Standing in 
our present position, far inland, we cannot prove the exist- 
ence of the ocean, we cannot even be certain that our idea 
of that ocean corresponds in any way to the reality. We can 
only say: "Take that road, go to the top of that hill. Then 
you will see the ocean itself, and you will not need any 
further proof." During the course of the world's history, 
there have been many people, great teachers and saints and 
Illumined Souls, who have told us: "God exists. I know, be- 
cause I have seen Him." The only question that remains for 
us is: do we or don't we believe them? If, after watching 
their lives, or learning all that can be known about them, we 
feel that these men were not deluded, were not insanethen 
a conviction begins to grow in our own hearts also. And, 
when once we have the beginning of that conviction, it will 
be our own fault if we do not try to obtain certainty, by 
starting to travel along the road which those men travelled, 
in order that we may reach the hilltop, like them, and see 
the ocean for ourselves. 

The next idea we have to consider is contained in the 
words "Our Father." Christ is teaching us how to think of 
God when we pray to Him. We are to think of Him as a 
person, as our very own Father, whom we regard partly with 
awe and reverence but chiefly with trust, absolute confidence 
and love. We are under His protection. We are safe with 

Sri Ramakrishna said that God is personal, impersonal and 
beyond. In other words, there are two ways in which our 
human minds can try to think of Himas a personal being 
and as an impersonal being. But, behind and beyond these 
two aspects is another the absolute reality of God which no 
mind can grasp, even to the very slightest degree. That is the 
divine "beyond" which can be described only by means of 
negation, by saying "it is not this, it is not this." However, 
the religion which Christ taught is fundamentally what the 

y ED ANT A For <The Western World 338 

Hindus call Bhakti Yoga, the path of loving devotion. The 
devotee who follows this path finds that God's aspect as an 
impersonal being is too much of an abstraction to be loved. 
In order to be able to pray and meditate we have, as Sri 
Ramakrishna was always teaching, to enter into a relation- 
ship with God as a person. Various relationships with God 
are, of course, possible. We can think of Him as our Master, 
our Father or Mother, our Friend and Playmate, our Child 
or our Lover. What matters is that we learn to think of Him 
with devotion and love. 

"Hallowed be Thy Name." In almost every religion and 
system of philosophy we find that emphasis is laid upon the 
Name, the Logos, the Word. In India, we find that same idea 
accepted which is expressed at the beginning of the Fourth 
Gospel, that the name of God is identical with God. In 
Vedanta, God's name is called the Mantram: a Man tram is 
given by the teacher to every devotee at the ceremony of his 
initiation. The idea is that by repeating this Mantram, by 
hallowing His name, over and over again, we let God take 
possession of our conscious mind; so that, finally, no matter 
what we are doing or saying or thinking, some part of our 
mind will be praising Him. The Mantram is like a rope 
which will draw us to God almost without our effort. All we 
have to do is to hold fast to it. 

"Thy Kingdom Come. Thy Will be done in earth, as it is 
in Heaven." When a Hindu performs ritualistic worship, the 
first prayer he says is: "As with eyes wide open, a man sees 
the sky above him, so the Seer sees God continually, the Su- 
preme Truth, the All-Pervading Existence." If only our 
Divine sight opens we shall see God's Kingdom come here. 
This is not a hope for the future. God's Kingdom has come 
already: it has always been with us. So Christ is teaching us 
to pray that we may transcend space and time while living 
here on earth, and may know God's Kingdom in our hearts 
and all around us. 

How is a beginner in spiritual life to do the will of God? 
How can he possibly know if what he is doing is God's will 
or not? Throughout history, in every country, we find all 
sorts of people, from kings and dictators down to beggars, 

339 ^^ Sermon on the ff&ount IV 

doing what they want to do and announcing confidently that 
it is God's will. Even those dismal people who habitually do 
the most unpleasant things, the things they least want to do, 
still cannot be sure that they are doing God's will: they may 
be just taking a delight in torturing themselves. No until 
we become spiritually illumined, until God actually speaks 
to us, we cannot know, in any given situation, what His will 
may be. But we can say confidently, even in our present igno- 
rance, that His will is whatever will lead us to Him. And 
when the day comes that brings us into perfect union with 
Him, so that we are literally filled with God, then we can 
become His instruments and actually do His will. So let us 
pray: "Lord, I do not know what Your will is, but do it 
through me. Let Your will, not my will, be done! Make me 
a tool in Your hand/' 

"Give us this day our daily bread." Nearly all Bible com- 
mentators agree that the bread which is spoken of here is the 
bread of Grace. We are praying that this Grace may be re- 
vealed to us. We are asking to have it "this day," not to- 
morrow, not in a year's time, but now, this very momentl 
As a child, I used to love the story of the girl who went out 
into the woods to wait for God. She was certain that, sooner 
or later, He would pass by. Year followed year, she became a 
woman and then an old woman, but always she waited with 
eager expectancy. She was ready for Him at every moment of 
every day. Whenever a leaf fell or a creature moved in the 
undergrowth, she would think: "Here He comes!" and at 
last, God did really come. He passed by her, and her whole 
life was blessed. That is the faith we need: we must know 
that God's Grace can be revealed to us at any moment, and 
at the same time we must be prepared to wait a whole life 
long, or many lives, if need be. Very few people have learned 
to live in that spirit of expectancy. Most of us feel that we 
have so many impurities, so many faults to overcome, so 
much discipline to work through, that we cannot possibly 
reach God until some distant point in the future. This ap- 
parent humility is really a form of vanity, because it pre- 
supposes that we can know God through our own efforts, our 
own will power. That is all nonsense! Your own struggles 

VEDANTA For The Western World 340 

will never make you pure or bring you the sight of God. 
That can come only through His Grace. True, there must be 
self-effort. We must struggle desperately, with every ounce of 
our strength. But we must also know that, quite irrespective 
of our achievement, God's Grace may descend upon us at 
any moment. Always be ready. 

The Sermon on the ^Mount 


"AND FORGIVE us OUR DEBTS, as we forgive our debtors." A 
Hindu or Buddhist who reads this passage will at once un- 
derstand the word "debt" to mean the debt of Karma. When 
we recognize this debt, when we realize that everything, 
good or bad that comes to us has been previously earned by 
ourselves alone, then we know that we must not hold any* 
body else responsible for anything that we suffer in our lives* 
Ordinarily, we all have that tendency to put the blame on 
the other fellow. At the very beginning of creation, we find 
Adam putting the blame on to Eve. And Eve, in her turn, 
put the blame on to the Serpent. If we are ready to assume 
responsibility for our own debts, and not blame others, then 
it will be easy for us to forgive our own debtors, those who 
take something away from us or do us some harm. From that 
point, we can go on to say: "If it is by my own doing that I 
am what I am, then I can also become what I wish to be." 
And so we struggle to improve ourselves, and finally tran- 
scend the law of Karma altogether. 

"And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from 
evil." This part of the prayer is hard for exclusively Chris- 
tian theologians to understand. But to a student of the Gita 
it seems very natural. How is it possible, the Christian asks, 
for God to tempt anybody? The Gita replies that this whole 
universe is one gigantic temptation, and that this universe 
is Maya, the Divine Illusion. It is God Himself, as seen from 
our ignorant and degenerate viewpoint. As soon as we are 
born, we are caught in the power of this Maya. In the story 
of the Garden of Eden, Adam is warned not to eat the fruit 
of the Tree. As soon as he has eaten it, his Atman becomes 
identified with the sense of ego: he recognizes good and evil 
and the whole universe which Maya created. 


VEDANTA For The Western World 342 

Ego is the root-cause of our ignorance. Our only way of 
escape from Maya is to surrender the ego, all our actions, and 
all our thoughts, completely to God. As Christ puts it, we 
must recognize that God's is "the kingdom, and the power, 
and the glory, for ever." 

"When ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad counte- 
nance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear 
unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, 'They have their re- 
ward/ But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and 
wash thy face; that thou appear not unto men to fast, but 
unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which 
seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly." 

Sri Ramakrishna often used to quote a traditional saying: 
"Beware of these: The man who wears the sacred leaf on his 
ear, one who is secretive and does not talk at all, one who 
cannot keep a secret and talks too much, a woman with a 
double veil, and the water of a pond which is covered with 
scum." In other words, beware of things which are other 
than they seem. A man who makes a show of religion has no 
religion at all. If a man finds religion inside, he will hate to 
show it outside: he keeps it sacred within himself. The truly 
illumined souls, for this reason, are very difficult to recog- 
nize. They do not advertise. But when they meet a seeker 
after truth who is sincere and earnest, and who is ready to 
hear their word, then they reveal themselves to him, and 
show him the way to God. We find that Jesus, also, asks his 
disciples not to preach to anybody and everybody, but only 
to those who are ready for it. "Give not that which is holy 
unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest 
they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend 

"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where 
moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through 
and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven." 
Here Jesus is repeating in a different way what we have heard 
already, that cne of the conditions for successfully starting to 
live the spiritual life is to have right discrimination. We must 
be able to discriminate between the eternal and the non- 
eternal. We must know what -it is that we are looking for. 
Once we are sure that it is the treasures in heaven we want, 

343 *The Sermon on the Mount V 

and not the treasures upon earth, then we shall not fail. No 
matter how often we may show weakness and make mistakes, 
we shall reach the goal in the end, as long as we can keep up 
the struggle. A little baby tries to walk: as one watches him 
falling down so often, it seems incredible that he will ever 
succeed. But he picks himself up, again and again, because 
the urge within him is so strong, and in the end he can walk 
upright without faltering. There is no failure in the spiritual 
life, as long as we do not give up the fight. And we shall 
never give it up, when once we can discriminate and know 
the true goal. So, whatever our weaknesses, let us be uncom- 
promising about one thing, about our ideal, because "no 
man can serve two masters." The attempt to serve "God and 
Mammon" simultaneously is quite hopeless. Nobody can do 
it, and the sooner we stop trying, the better. "If thine eye be 
single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye 
be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness." The "evil" 
spoken of here is the non-eternal, which can only lead us 
further and further into the night of spiritual confusion. 

"Take no thought for your life," Jesus tells us. And he asks 
us to consider the fowls or the air, which neither sow nor 
reap, and yet are fed; and the lilies, which are so beautifully 
dressed, although they do not spin. "Seek ye first the king- 
dom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall 
be added unto you." 

In the West, people have known these words since their 
childhood, and thought them beautiful but quite unprac- 
tical. They prefer the worldly-wise motto: Trust in God, 
and keep your powder dry. And they are right, as long as 
they want to go on living by the values of this world. These 
teachings are unpractical for any individual who is not com- 
pletely devoted to God. If he tries not to take thought for the 
morrow, it would be nonsense. But if you truly seek the 
Kingdom of God, then you will not care where you live, 
what you eat, or where you sleep. And there are actually 
hundreds and thousands of men and women living like this 
in the world today. Because this spirit has always kept alive 
to some extent in India, Indian culture has lived on and sur- 
vived many other cultures which have been anxious for the 
conquests and triumphs of this earthly life, and have taken 

VEDANTA For The Western World 344 

"thought for the morrow," and kept their powder dry. We 
have a story about a devotee who was being attacked by some 
robbers, so he prayed: "O God, come and help me!" Shiva, 
the God of Gods, and Mother Durga were sitting chatting 
together, when Shiva rose abruptly, without any explanation, 
and left her. However, after a moment, he reappeared again. 
So Durga asked Shiva where he had been. "You see," Shiva 
explained, "this devotee called me, so I had to go. But, when 
I reached him, I found that he was already chasing the rob- 
bers away with a stick. Although he called on me, he is try- 
ing to help himself. Let him try, then. I shall not go to his 

"Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judg- 
ment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure 
ye mete, it shall be measured to you again." 

Everybody has that tendency, to gossip, criticize, and judge 
others. This gossip is a kind of relish as we say in India, a 
chutney with your food. It may seem very innocent; yet it 
causes immense harm in human society, and particularly to 
those who indulge in it. Nobody can see a fault in another 
unless he has that fault in himself. Indeed, most often, this 
fault we seem to see exists only in our own impure imagina- 
tion. How many of us can really look into the depths of an- 
other man, and see all the motives which are prompting him 
to act in a particular way? And yet we are so ready to judge, 
and to impute motivesthe motives which we ourselves 
should have in similar circumstances. And these motives are 
always evil, because that gives the relish to the gossip. You 
will invariably find that if you criticize another person for a 
certain fault, and go on criticizing, that fault will grow in 
yourself. We relish finding fault with others because it swells 
our own ego-sense. Behind all such, criticism, there is the 
same feeling: "/ don't have this fault. I am greater than 
he is." 

In India we have a saying that the fly sits on the filth as 
well as on the honey, but that the bee seeks only the honey 
and avoids the filth. And so the first vow which is given to 
the spiritual aspirant is: "May I follow the example of the 
bee, not that of the fly!" As we progress in the spiritual life, 
we learn to see the good in everyone. Real holy men have 

345 Th** Sermon on the Mount V 

that attitude toward mankind: if you have the least drop of 
goodness in you they see an ocean of goodness within that 
drop. Not because they are foolishly optimistic, but because 
they see the possibility of future growth, and they emphasize 
that. The ideal is to see God in everybody. We must learn to 
see God looking out from behind the mask of so-called 
wickedness and worthlessness. 

Does this mean that we should be blind to one another's 
faults, and never try to correct them? No Jesus does not say 
that. But he says: "Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam 
out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast 
out the mote out of thy brother's eye." That is what makes the 
difference: not to be a hypocrite. If you really have that love 
for mankind, and are not just hypocritically finding fault in 
order to enlarge your own ego, then you can correct your 
brother's defects. Then you can tell him where he fails, not 
with malicious relish, but with love and sympathy. My mas- 
ter, Swami Brahmananda, like all such great souls, had moods 
in which he was unable to see any faults in anyone, because 
he was full of the divine consciousness. He saw God every- 
where, and nothing but God. But at other times he scolded 
us, thundered at us, pounded at our faults. And then he 
would say: "Do you think you can run away from me, be- 
cause I am apparently so cruel? The mother holds the child, 
and spanks it. The baby cries 'Mother!' And all the while it 
is in its mother's arms." But until we have that love, we have 
no right to criticize others. Let us rather see the fault in 

"Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; 
knock, and it shall be opened unto you: for every one that 
asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him 
that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of 
you, whom if his son ask bread, will give him a stone? Or if 
he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being 
evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how 
much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good 
things to them that ask him?" 

In this passage, Jesus sums up the whole truth of religion 
and what is that? Two things: longing for God, and faith. 
What is faith? It is when we feel the presence of God, when 

VEDANTA For The Western World 346 

we knock at the door knowing that it will be opened. This 
faith does not come until v/e have achieved purity of heart. 
The impurities in our minds, the lusts, passions, fleshly de- 
sires, prevent us from seeing God, who is nevertheless present 
all the time, everywhere. The more you knock, the more you 
ask and pray, the more this world will be seen to be a mere 
appearance, and the reality of God's presence will show 
through. Use all your power, all your strength, to open that 

"Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men 
should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law 
and the prophets." Here Jesus is telling us how we must con- 
duct ourselves in human society. In the Gita there is a par- 
allel passage: "He who is aware of both the grief and the 
happiness within every being to the same degree as he feels 
them within himself him, O Arjuna, I hold to be the high- 
est yogi." Just previously to tfcis, Sri Krishna has been telling 
Arjuna how to meditate, how to love God and how to be- 
come absorbed in the consciousness of God. And then he 
teaches him this truth. There are some who believe that the 
search for God is apt to make the searcher indifferent to the 
sufferings of human beings. But the very opposite is true. 
The more sensitive we become, the more we become aware 
of others, and the more we care for them. We begin to know 
that our own Self is the same Self in everyone else. Because 
we wish to be happy, we cannot cause unhappiness to others; 
and so we cannot hurt others in any way. 

"Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and 
broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there 
be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow 
is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that 
find it." 

Here Jesus warns us that realization of God is not easy. 
Purity of heart can only be achieved after a great struggle. 
In the Katha-Upanishad, we read: "Like the sharp edge of a 
razor, the sages say, is the Path hard it is, and difficult to 
walk." We are also told that the Lord created the senses "out- 
going." The natural human tendency is to rush out through 
the broad ways of the senses and lose oneself in the world. 
The process of religious growth is to turn that whole current 

347 ^h 6 Sermon on the Motint V 

of life around, and make it flow inward, through "the strait 
gate/' In this connection, it is interesting to remember the 
mystical teaching of the Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali. Here, 
mention is made of three nerve-passages in the spine, which 
are called the Ida, the Pingala and the Sushumna. The Ida 
and the Pingala are the two outer passages of the spinal 
nerves, but modern anatomists have been unable to find any 
use for the Sushumna, the central passage. However, Yoga 
tells us that, if the nerve-current can be made to flow through 
that narrow channel, a man rises above space, time and 
causation, and sees the Reality. So this Sushumna would be 
literally a narrow gate leading to knowledge of God Himself, 

"Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's 
clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves." Jesus tells 
us to discriminate between true and false religion. True re- 
ligion shows us how to overcome the world, but the teachers 
of false religion hold out the promise of success and wealth 
in the world. "Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men 
gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?" The fruits of false 
religion are worldly success; the fruits of true religion are 
illumination. Sri Ramakrishna followed the paths of many 
religions during his life on earth, and always applied the 
same test to each: "Will it give me the illumination of God?" 
If he got that, then he knew that that was a true religion. 
When told about some new sect, he would ask: "Do they 
teach love for God? Do they teach people how to realize 
God?" If not, he would have nothing to do with it. 

"Not every one that saith unto me, 'Lord, Lord/ shall 
enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will 
of my Father which is in heaven." 

Now this, and the verses which follow, have frequently 
been misinterpreted into a kind of humanistic religion. 
Matthew Arnold, for example, said that "religion is ethical 
life touched by emotion." The humanists interpret this 
phrase about doing "the will of my Father" to mean doing 
good works in the external world. They say: "Lord, Lord," 
to give the work a touch of emotion, and then go ahead with 
their social service. They use God as a scavenger to clean out 
the drains of human society. 

But there is only one way of doing the will of God, and 

VEDANTA For The Western World 348 

that is, first, to realize Him. Until we have done that, we can 
never know what His will is. Does this mean that we must 
give up our humanitarian work? No, it does not mean that. 
But we are not to do the work simply as philanthropy, as 
service to mankind'; but as service to God, and out of love 
for God. There is a very important distinction between these 
two attitudes. Among those who go to serve mankind, we 
find an egotism arising. They begin to think and say: "With- 
out me, everything will go to pieces. I am vitally important. 
Nothing must stand in the way of this work. The world 
needs me." And then, it is not long before they are saying: 
"God needs me." When I first came to this country, I visited 
a Sunday-school class, and the teacher had written on the 
board: "God needs your help." And later on I heard a min- 
ister say: "We all know that God is not omnipotent. We must 
help Him to gain more power." That is the direct opposite 
of what Jesus taught. He came to tell us that God does not 
need us; we need Him. 

When you do your social service as service to God, you 
may seemingly do the same work, but there is a vast differ- 
ence. Swami Vivekananda said that when we help another we 
should kneel down before him and give thanks that God lets 
us have this opportunity of serving Him. Religion must not 
be either egocentric or altruistic, but theocentric. We have 
to center our whole thought and mind upon God, and then 
extend our arms to everyone, embracing them all in the love 
of God. That, and not humanistic social service, is what 
Jesus actually taught. 

"Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and 
doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his 
house upon a rock: and the rain descended, and the floods 
came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it 
fell not: for it was founded upon a rock." 

That rock is the rock of experience. When once you have 
been face to face with Reality, when you are founded upon 
that, then nothing can shake you. Until we have built upon 
that rockno matter how strong our faith may seem to be, 
emotionally we 'shall be shaken by these storms of doubt; 
and the house will fall, and have to be rebuilt, again and 
again. The faith which merely exclaims: "Oh, I believe in 

349 Tfa Sermon on the Mount V 

Jesus, I accept himi" and does nothing further, is no true 
faith. It will give us no support when the storm begins to 
blow. And so we come back to that basic truth: religion is 
something practical, it is something you have to do, and be, 
and live, or else it is nothing. 

"And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, 
the people were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught 
them as one having authority, and not as the scribes." Jesus 
was not speaking from hearsay. He knew what he was saying 
was true, because it was his own experience; he spoke from 
the rock of personal knowledge. No second-hand report, no 
amount of study, no wealth of eloquence, can be compared 
to the absolute guarantee of first-hand witness which an illu- 
mined teacher brings us. The reports may be convincing, the 
arguments of the theologians may be sound, the eloquence 
may move us to tears but always that little obstinate area of 
doubt must remain in our own minds. Yes, and even when 
a Christ, a Buddha, a Ramakrishna arises, and says: "I have 
seen Him" even that is not enough. Actually to have been 
present, to listen to the Sermon on the Mount, must have 
been one of the most tremendous experiences a human being 
could haveyet even this was an experience at second-hand; 
and so we find that some of Christ's most intimate disciples 
were later troubled with doubts. Swami Vivekananda had 
doubts too, even after long intimacy with Sri Ramakrishna. 
And those doubts only vanished finally when the goal had 
been reached, the goal of all spiritual life; actual, personal 
realization of God, 


Jkfaya and ^Mortal 3\dind 


IN PART FIVE of his analysis of the Sermon on the Mount, 
Swami Prabhavananda raises a point which, he says, is hard 
for exclusively Christian theologians to understand, but very 
natural to a student of the Gita. It is also, oddly enough, com- 
paratively natural to a student of that latter-day religion 
called Christian Science, or at any rate to one who has stud- 
ied the more recent interpretations thereof. 

And since this magazine avows its purpose as "promoting 
the work of spiritual and philosophical understanding be- 
tween the East and the West/' I feel I need not apologize for 
this attempt to show the coincidence of those two understand- 
ings on this question. 

The point of which the Swami is speaking is the phrase: 
"Lead us not into temptation," and his explanation thereof, 
derived from the Gita, is that the whole universe is one gi- 
gantic temptation, being Maya, the Divine Illusion. The 
universe, he points out, is God Hirself, as seen from our 
ignorant and degenerate viewpoint. Which is, when referring 
to the so-called material world, exactly what the Christian 
Scientist calls "Mortal Mind," defined, among other defini- 
tions, by Mary Baker Eddy, as "a belief that life, substance 
and intelligence are in and of matter; the opposite of Spirit, 
and therefore the opposite of God." Maya, or Mortal Mind, 
both are illusions, or false conceptions of reality. 

"Ego," says the Swami, "is the root-cause of our igno- 
rance." What is Ego but a belief in separation from God, a 
belief in a separate and individual existence at best, a belief 
in duality, a duality of man and God, of matter and Spirit; 
at worst, a belief in finite and material existence as reality, 
and as the whole of reality? The holding of these beliefs, it 
has long seemed to me, must be the so-called sin against the 


35* Maya and ^Mortal Mind 

Holy Ghost, since they are the beliefs that prevent one from 
ever seeing, knowing or understanding the holy Spirit. I have 
used the phrases "at best" and "at worst" in classifying them 
as lesser and greater forms of the same error, but I am by no 
means sure that such a classification is justified, or that there 
is any fundamental difference between them as far as under- 
standing God is concerned. It is surely no greater blasphemy, 
heresy or misconception of the divine nature to deny its 
whole existence, than to deny its omnipotence and omni- 
presence, since those qualities are its nature, and to attempt 
to limit them, to believe in a joint-partnership of Spirit and 
matter, is no different from denying Spirit in its entirety, for 
Spirit must be all or nothing. 

The belief, then, in existence apart from God, is the major 
sin; ultimately, it is the only sin, error or misconception. 
Too many people, of whatever professed religious faith, in- 
cluding many Christian Scientists, adhere in their hearts to 
this conception of the universe; imagining, as a Christian 
Science teacher has recently put it, "that the spiritual uni- 
verse has a kind of imperfect repetition in a material uni- 
verse ... a material world in which almost everything is 
wrong, while somewhere afar off is the spiritual universe, 
good and perfect, in fact, heaven itself." It is part of the 
teaching of Christian Science that "by constantly identifying 
yourself with the limited and the imperfect, you perpetuate 
these restrictions for yourself, and thereby for that which ap- 
pears as your world." 

In other words, by believing in the joint partnership, one 
makes oneself subject to it; by accepting the illusion as 
reality, one is bound to it, and to its illusory laws of pain, lack 
and limitationjust as though, having read or been told of 
some arbitrary and non-existent law of the country he was 
living in, the ordinary man would consider himself bound 
by it, and find his liberty considerably restricted; or as a man, 
not knowing he has crossed the frontier from a tyrannous to 
a free country, would continue to act as though still op- 
pressed by the rigours of the former. Not until one knows 
and surrenders to the knowledge that one is a subject only 
of the Kingdom of God, owing obedience only to the laws 
thereof, is true freedom of living manifested. 

VEDANTA For The Western World 352 

How is this knowledge and this surrender to be arrived 
at? What is the way of escape from Maya? "Only," says the 
Swami, "to surrender the ego, all our actions, and all our 
thoughts completely to God. As Christ puts it, we must recog- 
nize that God's is 'the kingdom, and the power, and the 
glory, for ever.' " 

Surrender of the ego means, surely, first of all, surrender 
of the illusion of an existence separate from God, of personal 
sense in all that it implies of any effort, power or achieve- 
ment of one's own; or, even "with God's help." For God 
does not "help"; God does, or is. The very word "help" sug- 
gests duality; implies it, even, of necessity, since, in order 
that help can be possible, there must be two panics the 
helped and the helper. And to accept the belief that one can 
need or receive help, even though it may be an abasement of 
the ego, a temporary admission of its limitations, still affirms 
its existence as an entity. For God to "help" means that He 
is not omnipotent, but lending His power as an adjunct to 
another power, a mortal one. The extreme of this belief can 
be seen in a remark reported to me once by a Church of Eng- 
land country clergyman, to whom one of his parishioners, re- 
counting an experience of trial and fortitude, in which she 
found herself putting forth a physical strength she did not 
know she possessed, explained: "Of course, the Good Lord 
helped me all He could." 

Ego, personality, a sense of human power and existence; 
these are the stumbling-blocks that perpetuate the Maya. 
And this is no exclusive tenet of Oriental philosophy. In 
speaking of the miracles of the New Testament, Dr. de 
Lange, one of the most absolute and advanced of Christian 
Science teachers, whom I have already quoted above, recently 
said: "Had the Master accepted as his habitual thought of 
himself the picture painted of him by his family and 
friends a loving person going around performing miracles- 
he never could have accomplished a single one of his works. 
That which appears as a person can never attain his highest 
aspiration of divine good, unless the personal sense yields to 
the divine." 

Personal sense, and Ego; Mortal Mind and Maya; the 
terms seem interchangeable. One is the cause, and the other 

353 Maya and ^Mortal 

the effect; and yet cause and effect are one, and both, in the 
absolute sense, non-existent. If God, or Spirit, is All, then 
Ego, a separate material being, has no reality, save as a mis- 
conception of what we truly are; and it is this misconception 
that produces Maya which, being illusion, is self-defined as 
non-existent. The temptation, then, from which we are to 
pray for deliverance, is the temptation to deny God as All-in- 
All. So long as we do deny Him, so long will other tempta- 
tions, temptations of the world, products of our ignorance, 
beset us, and we will continue to whine, to complain, or to 
boast and congratulate ourselves. As another teacher of Chris- 
tian Science has recently put it: "When we say to ourselves 
'O Lord, how long?/ the answer will come back 'Just as long 
as you deny My omnipresence/ " 



"COME UNTO ME, . . . and I will give you rest. . . /' With the 
automatic persistence of a mantram these words of her Lord 
repeated themselves in Martha's brain as she laid herself 
down to rest one hot afternoon. She felt more tired than 
usual; there were so many extra things to be done whenever 
the Master came to visit them, and He was coming that very 
evening. Though physically tired, Martha felt none of the 
nervous exhaustion which had usually accompanied her for- 
mer preparations, and as she lay there, she recalled again, as 
she so often did, that never-to-be-forgotten day when Jesus 
had taught her the great secret of service. 

What a day that had been! It seemed that everything had 
gone wrong from the very moment she got up that morning. 
There was yet much to be done, and she still felt nervous 
and tired from the previous day's activities, and, to make 
matters worse, Mary was nowhere to be found. Not that she 
was ever much help now-a-days. Ever since their first meeting 
with the Master, she had changed. She had always been 
something of a dreamer, and, since the coming of Jesus, she 
would spend hours alone in her room or in the garden. 
Martha knew she was always thinking of Him, and the things 
He had taught her, and it was all right with her; she some- 
times wished that she, too, had time to day-dream or "medi- 
tate" as Mary called it. But everybody couldn't be dreamers. 
There were things to be done; household duties didn't just 
drop away, that she knew only too well; but that she should 
go off completely at such a time was too much for Martha. 
She became furious, and it did nothing to lessen her annoy- 
ance when later Mary arrived with the Master and His 
friends, whom she had gone out to meet. 

Martha recalled how curtly she had welcomed the guests, 


355 ^Martha 

and how angry she had felt toward Mary as she returned to 
the kitchen and the cooking. She had been sure that Mary 
wc.ald at least help her serve the meal. Looking back over 
the scene it was difficult for Martha now to understand how 
she could have allowed herself to get so upset. But upset she 
had been! She could have shaken her sister, but instead she 
had made that ghastly mistake! A chill ran over her as she 
recalled that most dreadful scene. Why could not Mary have 
used some initiative, why could she not have felt Martha's 
extremity, and at least have offered to help? How much pain 
it might have saved! Or so Martha thought. But when, in- 
stead, poor Martha lost her last ounce of control and burst 
in upon them, there was Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus, 
looking up into His face, and listening to His words with 
rapt attention! And then the reproach that followed her de- 
mand for help! "Martha, Martha, thou art careful and trou- 
bled about many things: but one thing is needful: and Mary 
hath chosen that good part. . . ." Poor Martha! Stunned and 
crushed, she returned to her kitchen. She wondered vaguely 
what Mary thought about it all. Did she understand what He 
meant by the "good part"? She did not blame her sister; 
rather she felt that somehow she herself was at fault, but 
how? In silence she served her guests, only waiting till she 
could steal away to the solitude of her own room. 

All that afternoon the question haunted her: what was 
that one needful thing, what was that "good part"? In what 
way was Mary's part better than hers? In what way were they 
different? She tried to recall something Jesus might sometime 
have said which would answer the question for her, but in 
vain. She realized sadly that she had always been too busy to 
find much time to sit at His feet like Mary did, and listen to 
His teachings. She realized that she was with Him only at 
mealtimes, and these times were always occasions of festivity. 
Perhaps, after all, in her anxiety to serve Him, she had ac- 
tually neglected Him! But He came so seldom, His life was 
so lonely, His comforts so few, that she had always felt that 
no effort was too great, no service too small, if only she could 
give Him even a little happiness and comfort. Didn't He 
know that? Didn't He know why she had been angry at 

VEDANTA For The Western World 356 

Mary? Surely He must know; and He must also know the 
agony of remorse that followed her outburstl 

She did not see Him again that day until she went to bid 
Him goodnight as He sat in the garden. At first He did not 
see her as she approached, but, as the moon cast her shadow 
across the path He looked up and smiled. To Martha it 
seemed as if the very gates of heaven had opened! Never had 
she seen such a smile on any face, not even on His. She stood 
transfixed! Softly He spoke, "Come unto Me. . . ." Instantly 
Martha was at His feet, sobbing her weary heart out. And 
even as she wept she knew that He did know everything that 
was in her heart; she knew that all the doubts and per- 
plexities that clouded her mind were clear to Him. 

For some time they remained silent, and as she knelt at His 
feet, Martha felt that all her grief was dispelled, all her 
doubts were quieted, and a peace had descended upon her, 
such as she had never known. Then, as He spoke, she looked 
up into His face and listened as He explained to her how 
difficult the path of action was to follow. It was like walking 
a tight-ropeso easy to lose one's balance, because the mo- 
ment any attachment to the action itself, or to the fruits of 
the action entered in, the balance was lost, one fell from the 
ideal, and by so falling, suffered. And, because attachment 
brought suffering, Jesus urged Martha to lay her yoke upon 
Him, and not upon her service to Him, for, as long as one 
laboured for the meat which perished, one would always be 
dissatisfied, disturbed, and harassed, just as she had been 
that very day. 

How gently, yet how very clearly He had explained what 
the "good part" was which Mary had chosen. Fundamentally 
neither sister was superior to the other. Both were right, both 
were devoted, but each expressed her devotion according to 
her own temperament and capacity. By her very nature Mary 
was a contemplative, whereas Martha was active, and found 
her best expression in service to others. While Mary had 
united or yol ed herself to the Christhood of Jesus, in con- 
templation of Him, Martha had attached herself to Jesus the 
man through service and devotion to the personality. The 
"good part" lay in the constant remembrance of God, 

357 ^Martha 

whether through meditation or through action it did not 

As Martha learned all these things, she felt as if her whole 
life had been completely transformed, so much so, that, from 
the moment when she left Him, still sitting in the garden, 
never did she forget Him. She could not. She felt that her 
mind had become forever united with her Lord's, Everything 
she did, she did as an offering to Him, until gradually, even 
as her sister Mary, she too became a contemplative, while 
yet remaining active. She saw Him in all beings, and served 
Him in all. 

And, now, as she lay resting, it seemed she could hear His 
voice saying once again: "Well done, thou good and faithful 
servant . . .", and she felt as if her whole being had been 
caught up into that peace which He had promised when He 
said: ". . . and you shall find rest unto your soul." 


The Gjita and War 


IN THE COURSE of a year spent studying the Bhagavad-Gita, I 
have talked about its philosophy to a considerable number 
of people. Whatever else they had to say, I found them, al- 
most without exception, agreed on one point: that the Gita 
"sanctions" War. Some wtre glad of this. Others were sorry. 
But all, I think, were puzzled. Educated in the Christian tra- 
dition, they were accustomed to a gospel which is uncompro- 
misingly pacifist. However deeply they might be convinced 
of the justice or necessity of some particular conflict, they 
didn't like what they regarded as a general approval of the 
use of military force. They themselves, mere human beings 
struggling in the everyday world, might be driven to fight 
and kill one another, but they wanted Krishna, like Jesus, to 
stand for a higher ideal. That was their reaction. 

I do not wish to sound superior or conceited when I say 
that I myself do not put this interpretation upon the teach- 
ing of the Gita. I will try to explain why I do not: not merely 
for the information of the few people who may be interested, 
but because I want to straighten out my own ideas. The ques- 
tion is of the greatest importance to me, because I am myself 
a pacifist, and because I believe the Gita to be one of the 
major religious documents of the world. If its teachings did 
not seem to me to agree with those of the other gospels and 
scriptures, then my own system of values would be thrown 
into confusion, and I should feel completely bewildered. 

Briefly, the circumstances of the Gita dialogue can be de- 
scribed as follows: 

Two factions, closely bound to each other by ties of blood 
and friendship, are about to engage in a civil war. Arjuna, 
one of the leading generals, has Krishna for his charioteer. 
Krishna has told Arjuna that he will not fight, but has prom- 

359 The Qita and War 

ised to accompany him throughout the battle. Just before it 
begins, Arjuna asks Krishna to drive his chariot into the no- 
man's-land between the two armies. Krishna does so. Arjuna 
looks at the opposing army, and realizes that he is about to 
kill those whom he loves better than life itself. In his despair, 
he exclaims: "I will not fight!" 

Krishna's reply to Arjuna occupies the rest of the book. It 
deals not only with Arjuna's immediate personal problem, 
but with the whole nature of action, the meaning of life, and 
the aims for which man must struggle, here on earth. At the 
end of their conversation, Arjuna has changed his mind. He 
is ready to fight. And the battle begins. 

Before trying to analyze Krishna's arguments, I must men- 
tion two points which certain commentators have raised with 
regard to the battle itself. In the first place, it is sometimes 
said that the battle of Kurukshetra cannot possibly be com- 
pared to a battle in modern war. It was, in fact, a kind of 
tournament, governed by all the complex and humane rules 
of ancient Indian chivalry. A soldier mounted upon an ele- 
phant may not attack a foot-soldier. No man may be struck 
or shot at while running away. No one may be killed who 
has lost his weapons. And we are told, in the Mahabharata, 
that the opposing armies stopped fighting every evening, and 
even visited each other and fraternized during the night. In 
the second place, it is sometimes said that the whole battle 
is to be regarded allegorically. Arjuna is the individual man, 
Krishna is the indwelling Godhead, the enemies are man's 
evil tendencies, and so forth. 

All this is interesting, of course. But it has nothing to do 
with our problem. If Krishna is only talking figuratively, or 
only about War under certain conditions, then the Gita is 
just a fable, an archaic curiosity: we need not discuss it. Per- 
sonally, I prefer to forget Kurukshetra and ancient India 
altogether, and imagine a similar dialogue taking place to- 
day, in a plane over the European front or the Japanese 
positions on a Pacific island. If the Gita has any validity, its 
reference is equally to this war and this very year. 

To understand the Gita, we must first consider what it is 
and what it is not. We must consider its seating. When Jesus 
spoke the words which are recorded as the Sermon on the 

VEDANTA For The Western World 360 

Mount, he was talking to a group of followers in the most 
peaceful atmosphere imaginable, far from the great city, far 
from all strife and confusion. He was expressing the highest 
truth of which man's mind is capable, in general terms, with- 
out reference to any immediate crisis or problem. And even 
in the Garden of Gethsemane, when he told Peter to sheathe 
his sword, he was addressing a dedicated disciple, a monk, a 
man who was being trained to preach and live the spiritual 
life. For Peter, there could be no compromise. He must learn 
to accept the highest and strictest ideal, the ideal of non- 

The Gita is very different. Krishna and Arjuna are on a 
battlefield. Arjuna is a warrior by birth and profession. He 
corresponds to the mediaeval knight of Christendom. His 
problem is considered in relation to the circumstances of the 
moment. The Gita fits into the narrative of an epic poem, 
the Mahabharata, and must be read in the light of previous 
happenings. It is not simply a sermon, a philosophical 

This, I believe, is the cause of much misunderstanding. 
We all tend to remember most clearly the part of a book 
which we read first. The opening chapters of the Gita deal 
with a particular case: they are concerned with a soldier and 
the duties of a soldier. Later on, Krishna passes from the par- 
ticular to the general, and utters those same truths which 
were afterwards taught by Jesus and the Buddha. But the 
first impression is apt to remain. The superficial reader closes 
the book and remembers only Arjuna and the battle. He says 
to himself: "Krishna tells us that we must fight/' 

Krishna, it must be repeated, is not talking to a monk. We 
ought to be glad of this, not sorry. The vast majority of man- 
kind are not monks, but householders. What a great teacher 
has to say to a married man, a soldier, is of immediate inter- 
est to the world at large. 

We must realize, also, that Krishna, in teaching Arjuna, 
employs two sets of values, the relative and the absolute. 
This duality is inherent in the circumstances of the story. For 
Krishna is both Arjuna's personal friend and his illumined 
teacher. He is a fellow-mortal and he is God. As God, he 

361 The Qita and War 

expresses the absolute truth, the highest ideal. As a fellow- 
man, he presents the relative values which apply to Arjuna's 
particular condition. Considered superficially, this duality 
of attitude may seem to produce contradictions. Carefully 
studied, it will be seen to compose into a complete and satis- 
fying philosophical picture. For life itself is double-faced; 
and any attempt at simplification will only bring us to ulti- 
mate confusion. 

One circumstance renders Arjuna's compassion suspect: its 
occasion. Arjuna himself is dimly aware of this. "Is this real 
compassion I feel/' he asks Krishna, "or only a delusion? My 
mind gropes about in darkness. I cannot see where my duty 
lies." Up to this moment, Arjuna has not hesitated. He has 
accepted the necessity of the war. He has assumed responsi- 
bility for its leadership. Then, suddenly, he sees the other 
side of the picture: the bloodshed, the horror. And he recoils. 

In the years that followed the 1914-18 war, much pacifist 
propaganda was based on gruesome narratives of battle and 
books of photographs showing mutilated corpses. "This is 
what War is like," said the authors. "Isn't it horrible? Do you 
want to go through this again?" And nearly everybody agreed 
that they didn't. But this sort of revulsion is always short- 
lived, because it appeals, fundamentally, to our cowardice. 
When a new war-situation develops, most of us react in the 
opposite direction, and rightly. Men can never, ultimately 
be deterred from any course of action by cowardice alone. 
Otherwise we should never have evolved from the jellyfish. 
We have to go forward, and the path is always dangerous, in 
one way or another. Arjuna has to go forward. Krishna tells 
him so. Arjuna must accept the sum of his actions up to that 
moment and the sum is this battle. 

Krishna's reply begins by dealing with Arjuna's feelings of 
revulsion, on general grounds. Arjuna shrinks from the act 
itself, the act of killing. Krishna reminds him that, in the 
absolute sense, there is no such act. The Atman, the in- 
dwelling Godhead, is the only reality. This body is simply 
an appearance: its existence, its destruction, are alike illu- 
sory. In the absolute sense, all talk of killing or being killed 
is meaningless. 

V ED ANT A For The Western World 362 

"Some say this Atman 
Is slain, and others 
Call It the slayer: 
They know nothing. 
How can It slay 
Or who shall slay It?" 

Therefore, if Arjuna is objecting to the act of killing, as such, 
he need have no scruples. For he only seems to kill. 

Then, with one of those changes of viewpoint which may 
bewilder and shock a reader who opens the Gita for the first 
time and takes only its surface meaning, Krishna begins to 
talk to Arjuna as man to man: 

"Even if you consider this from the standpoint of your 
own caste-duty, you ought not to hesitate; for, to a warrior, 
there is nothing nobler than a righteous war. . . . 

"But if you refuse to fight this righteous war, you will be 
turning aside from your duty. You will be a sinner, and dis- 
graced. People will speak ill of you throughout the ages. . . ." 

For Arjuna, a member of the warrior caste, the fighting of 
this battle, in defense of his family and property, is undoubt- 
edly "righteous." It is his duty. In the Gita, we find that the 
caste-system is presented as a kind of natural order. Men are 
divided into four groups, according to their capacities and 
characteristics. Each group has its peculiar duties, ethics and 
responsibilities; and these must be accepted. It is the way of 
spiritual growth. A man must go forward from where he 
stands. He cannot jump to the Absolute: he must evolve to- 
ward it. He cannot arbitrarily assume the duties which be- 
long to another group. If he does so, his whole system of 
values will be upset, his conscience can no longer direct him, 
and he will stray into pride or doubt or mental confusion. 
"Prefer to die doing your own duty," Krishna teaches: "The 
duty of another will bring you into great spiritual danger." 

Socially, the caste-system is graded. The merchants are 
above the servants. The leaders and warriors are above the 
merchants. The priestly Brahmins are highest of all. But, 
spiritually, there are no such distinctions. Krishna is very 
clear on this point. Everyone, he says, can attain the highest 
sainthood by following the prescribed path of his own caste- 
. In Southern India, we are told of seven saints who 

363 *The Qita and War 

belonged to the lowest caste of all, the untouchables. And 
the same principle, of course, holds true if we apply the caste- 
classification to the social pattern of Europe. Men have 
grown into spiritual giants while carrying out their duties as 
merchants, peasants, doctors, popes, scullions or kings. 

In the purely physical sphere of action, Arjuna is, indeed, 
no longer a free agent. The act of war is upon him: it has 
evolved out of his previous actions. He cannot choose. "If, 
in your vanity, you say 'I will not fight/ your resolve is vain. 
Your own nature will drive you to the act." At any given 
moment in time, we are what we are; and our actions express 
that condition. We cannot run away from our actions, be- 
cause we carry the condition with us. On the highest moun- 
tain, in the darkest cave, we must turn at last and accept the 
consequences of being ourselves. Only through this accept- 
ance can we begin to evolve further. We may select the 
battleground. We cannot avoid the battle. 

Arjuna is bound by the law of Karma, the law of cause and 
effect which has brought him face to face with this particular 
situation. Now he is compelled to act, but he is still free to 
make his choice between two different ways of performing 
the action. Krishna introduces this great themethe prin- 
cipal theme of the Gita in the passage which immediately 
follows. He proceeds to define the nature of action. 

In general, mankind almost always acts with attachment: 
that is to say, with fear and desire. Desire for a certain result, 
and fear that this result will not be obtained. Attached ac- 
tion binds us to the world of appearance, to the continual 
doing of more action. We live in a delirium of doing, and 
the consequences of our past actions condition the actions we 
are about to perform. According to the Gita, it is attached 
action which compels us to revisit this world, to be reborn 
again and again. 

But there is another way of performing action; and this is 
without fear and without desire. The Christians call it "holy 
indifference," and the Hindus "non-attachment." Both names 
are slightly misleading. They suggest coldness and lack of 
enthusiasm. That is why people often confuse non-attach- 
ment with fatalism, when, actually, they are opposites. The 
fatalist simply does not care. He will get what is coming to 
him. Why make any effort? Fatalists are apt to get drunk or 

VEDANTA For <The Western World 364 

spend most of the day in bed. The doer of non-attached ac- 
tion, on the other hand, is the most conscientious of men. 
He does not run away from life: he accepts it, much more 
completely than those whose pleasures are tinged with anx- 
iety and whose defeats are embittered by regret. No matter 
whether he is sweeping out a room, or calculating the posi- 
tion of a star, or taking the chair at a meeting, he does it to 
the utmost limit of his powers so carefully, so devotedly, so 
wholeheartedly, that the dividing-line between the chosen 
activity and the necessary chore disappears altogether. All 
work becomes equally and vitally important. It is only to- 
ward the results of work that he remains indifferent. Perhaps 
a dog runs across the clean floor with muddy paws. Perhaps 
his researches are recognized by Harvard University. Per- 
haps somebody throws a rotten egg at him. It doesn't matter. 
He goes right on with his job. We find something of this 
spirit in the lives of all truly great men and women, includ- 
ing the professed atheists and agnostics. Madame Curie re- 
fuses the Legion of Honor with the matter-of fact words: "I 
don't see the utility of it." Lenin, in 1921, with the White 
armies converging on M oscow, his regime apparently doomed, 
his work brought to nothing, calmly sits down and writes the 
order: "The peasants in the localities of Gorki and Ziianova 
are immediately to be supplied with electric light, 1 ' This, in 
its highest development, is the attitude of the saint. When 
action is done in this spirit, Krishna teaches, it will lead us 
to true wisdom, to the knowledge of what is behind action, 
behind all life: the ultimate Reality. And, with the growth 
of this knowledge, the need for further action will gradually 
fall away from us. The law of Karma will cease to operate. 
We shall realize our true nature, which is God. 

It follows, therefore, that every action, under certain cir- 
cumstances and for certain people, may be a stepping-stone 
to spiritual growth if it is done in the spirit of non-attach- 
ment. All good and all evil is relative to the individual point 
of growth. For each individual, certain acts are absolutely 
wrong. Indeed, there may well be acts which are absolutely 
wrong for every individual alive on earth today. But, in the 
highest sense, there can be neither good nor evil. 

365 The Qita and War 

"The Lord is everywhere 
And always perfect: 
What does He care for man's sin 
Or the righteousness of man?" 

Because Krishna is speaking as God Himself, he can take this 
attitude, and advise Arjuna to fight. Because Arjuna has 
reached this particular stage in his development, he can kill 
his enemies and actually be doing his duty. 

There is no question, here, of doipg evil that good may 
come. The Gita does not countenance such opportunism. 
Arjuna is to do the best he knows, in order to pass beyond 
that best to better. Later, his fighting at Kurukshetra may 
seem evil to him, and it will be evilthen. Doing the evil you 
know to be evil will never bring good. It will lead only to 
more evil, more attachment, more ignorance. 

How, in this complex world, are we to know what our own 
duty is? There is no greater problem. Yet, somehow, we have 
to find our position and make our stand. For the majority, 
much self-analysis, much trial and error, would seem to be 
the only way. But, having found that position, we must ac- 
cept it in its entirety. The soldier has many responsibilities 
and duties besides fighting. The pacifist has much else to do 
besides refusing to fight. These duties and responsibilities ex- 
tend equally over wartime and peace: they cover our whole 
life. But, in every case, the final ideal is the same. 

The Gita neither sanctions War nor condemns it. Regard- 
ing no action as of absolute value, either for good or evil, it 
cannot possibly do either. Its teaching should warn us not to 
dare to judge others. How can we prescribe our neighbor's 
duty when it is so hard for us to know our own? The pacifist 
must respect Arjuna. Arjuna must respect the pacifist. Both 
are going toward the same goal. There is an underlying 
solidarity between them which can be expressed, if each one 
follows, without compromise, the path upon which he finds 
himself. For we can only help others to do their duty by 
doing what we ourselves believe to be right. It is the one 
supremely social act. 

'*s>g*s>g*5>g>*s>g*s><g> < s>^g>^^^ 

^Action and (Contemplation 


THE VOCABULARY of even intelligent and well educated peo- 
ple is full of words and phrases which they glibly use without 
ever having troubled to analyze them or exactly determine 
their meaning. One could fill an entire volume with a dis- 
cussion of such commonly used, but undefined and un- 
analyzed phrases. Here, however, I propose to deal with only 
one of them, the phrase "life of action," so frequently used, 
in discussions of spiritual religion, in contradistinction to 
the "life of contemplation." What exactly does this phrase 
mean? And, passing from the sphere of words to the spheres 
of facts and values, how is action related to contemplation, 
and how ought the two to be related? 

In ordinary language, "life of action" connotes the sort of 
life led by film heroes, war correspondents, business execu- 
tives, politicians and so forth. Not so in the vocabulary of 
the religious life. To the religious psychologist the "active 
life" of common speech is merely worldly life, lived more or 
less unregenerately by people who have done little or noth- 
ing to rid themselves of the "Old Adam" and to establish 
contact with ultimate reality. What the religious psychologist 
or theologian calls "active life" is the life of good works. To 
be active is to follow the way of Martha, who ministered to 
the needs of the master, while Mary (the personification, in 
the West, of the contemplative life) sat and listened to his 
words. So far as the contemplative is concerned, the "active 
life" is not the life of -worldly affairs; it is the life of con- 
sistent and strenuous virtue. 

Pragmatism regards action as the end and thought as the 
means to that end; and contemporary popular philosophy 
accepts the pragmatist position. In the philosophy underlying 
Eastern and Western spiritual religion this position is re- 


367 Diction and Contemplation 

versed. Here, contemplation is the end, action (in which is 
included discursive thought) is valuable only as a means to 
the beatific vision of reality. "Action," wrote St. Thomas 
Aquinas, "should be something added to the life of prayer, 
not something taken away from it." This is the fundamental 
principle of the life of spiritual religion. Starting from it, 
practical mystics have critically examined the whole idea of 
action, and have laid down rules for the guidance of those 
whose concern is with ultimate reality rather than the world 
of selves. In the following paragraphs I shall summarize the 
Western mystical tradition in regard to the life of action. 

In undertaking any action, those whose concern is with 
spiritual religion should model themselves upon God him- 
self; for God created the world without in any way modify- 
ing his essential nature, and it is to this kind of action with- 
out attachment or involvement that the mystic should aspire. 
But to act in this way is impossible except for those who 
devote a certain amount of time to formal contemplation and 
who are able in the intervals constantly to "practice the pres- 
ence of God." Both tasks are difficult, especially the latter, 
which is possible only to those far advanced along the road 
of spiritual perfection. So far as beginners are concerned, the 
doing even of good works may distract the soul from God. 
Action is safe only for proficients in the art of mental prayer. 
"If we have gone far in orison," says one Western authority, 
"we shall give much to action; if we are but middlingly ad- 
vanced in the inward life, we shall give ourselves only mod- 
erately to outward life; if we have only a very little inward- 
ness, we shall give nothing at all to what is external." To 
the reasons for this injunction already given, we may add 
others of a strictly utilitarian nature. It is a matter of experi- 
ence and observation that well-intentioned actions performed 
by ordinary, unregenerate people, sunk in their selfhood and 
without spiritual insight, seldom do much good. St. John 
of the Cross put the whole matter in a single question and 
answer. Those who rush headlong into good works without 
having acquired through contemplation the power to act 
well what do they accomplish? 'Toco mas que nada, y a 
veces nada, y aun a veces dano." Little more than nothing, 
and sometimes nothing whatever, and sometimes even harm. 

VEDANTA For The Western World 368 

One reason for hell being paved with good intentions is to 
be found in the intrinsically unsatisfactory nature of actions 
performed by ordinary unregenerate men and women. That 
is why spiritual directors advise beginners to give as little as 
possible to external action until such time as they are fit to 
act profitably. It is a noteworthy fact that, in the biographies 
of the great Christian mystics, the period of activity has al- 
ways been preceded by a preliminary stage of retirement 
from the world a period during which these contemplatives 
learned to practice the presence of God so continuously and 
unwaveringly that the distractions of outward activity were 
powerless any longer to draw the mind away from reality. 
Indeed, for those who have reached a certain degree of pro- 
ficiency in "active annihilation/' action assumes a sacra- 
mental character and becomes a means for bringing them 
nearer to reality. Those for whom it is not such a means 
should refrain as far as possible from action all the more so 
since, in all that concerns the saving of souls and the im- 
proving of the quality of people's thoughts and behavior, "a 
man of orison will accomplish more in one year than another 
man in all his life." 

What is true of good works is true, a fortiori, of merely 
worldly activity, particularly when it is activity on a large 
scale, involving the cooperation of large numbers of indi- 
viduals in every stage of unenlightenment. Good is a product 
of the ethical and spiritual artistry of individuals; it cannot 
be mass-produced. This brings us to the heart of that great 
paradox of politics the fact that political action is necessary 
and at the same time incapable of satisfying the needs which 
called it into existence. Even when it is well-intentioned 
(which it very often is not), political action is foredoomed to 
a partial, sometimes even a complete self-stultification. The 
intrinsic nature of the human instruments with which, and 
the human materials upon which political action must be 
carried out, is a positive guarantee against the possibility of 
such action yielding the good results expected of it. 

For several thousands of years now men have been experi- 
menting with different methods of improving the quality of 
human instruments and materials. It has been found that 
something can be done by strictly humanistic methods, such 

369 ^Action and Contemplation 

as the improvement of the social and economic environment 
and the various techniques of character training. With cer- 
tain individuals, too, startling results are obtainable through 
conversion and catharsis. All these methods are good so far 
as they go; but they do not go far enough. For the radical 
and permanent transformation of personality, only one effec- 
tive method has been discovered that of the mystic. The 
great religious teachers of East and West have been unani- 
mous in asserting that all human beings are called to achieve 
enlightenment. They have also unanimously asserted that 
the achievement of enlightenment is so difficult, and de- 
mands a degree of self-abnegation so horrifying to the aver- 
age unregenerate human being, that, at any given moment 
of history, very few men and women will be ready even to 
attempt the labor. This being so, we must expect that large- 
scale political action will continue to yield the profoundly 
unsatisfactory results it has always yielded in the past. 

The contemplative does not work exclusively for his own 
salvation. On the contrary, he has an important social func- 
tion. At any given moment, as we have seen, only a few mys- 
tical, theocentric saints exist in the world. But few as they 
are, they can do an appreciable amount to mitigate the 
poisons which society generates within itself by its political 
and economic activities. They are the "salt of the earth, 1 ' the 
antiseptic which prevents society from breaking down into 
irremediable decay. 

This antiseptic and antidotal function of the theocentric 
saint is performed in a variety of ways. First of all, the mere 
fact that he exists is extremely salutary and important. The 
advanced contemplative is one who is no longer opaque to 
the immanent reality within, and as such he is profoundly 
impressive to the average unregenerate person, who is awed 
by his presence and even by the mere report of his existence 
into behaving appreciably better than he otherwise would do. 

The theocentric saint is generally not content merely to 
be. He is almost always a teacher and often a man of action. 
Through teaching, he benefits surrounding society by multi- 
plying the number of those who undertake the radical trans- 
formation of their character and thus increases the amount 
of antiseptics and antidotes in the chronically diseased body 

VEDANTA For <fhe Western World 370 

politic. As for the action into which so many advanced con- 
templatives have plunged, after achieving "active annihila- 
tion "this is never political, but always concerned with small 
groups or individuals; never exercised at the center of so- 
ciety, but always on the margin; never makes use of the 
organized force of the State or Church, but only of the non- 
coercive, spiritual authority which belongs to the contempla- 
tive in virtue of his contact with reality. It is a matter of 
plain historical fact that the greatest of the world's spiritual 
leaders have always refused to make use of political power. 
No less significant is the fact that, whenever well-intentioned 
contemplatives have turned from the marginal activities ap- 
propriate to spiritual leaders and have tried to use large-scale 
action to force an entire society, along some political short 
cut, into the Kingdom of Heaven, they have always failed. 
The business of a seer is to see; and if he involves himself in 
die kind of God-eclipsing activities which make seeing im- 
possible, he betrays not only his better self, but also his fellow 
men, who have a right to his vision. Mystics and theocentric 
saints are not always loved or invariably listened to: far 
from it. Prejudice and the dislike of what is unusual may 
blind their contemporaries to the virtues of these men and 
women of the margin, may cause them to be persecuted as 
enemies of society. But should they leave their margin, 
should they take to competing for place and power within 
the main body of society, they are certain to be generally 
hated and despised as traitors to their seership. Only the 
greatest spirituals are fully consistent. The average, unre- 
generate person loves the thoughts, feelings and actions that 
poison society, but also, and at the same time, loves the spir- 
itual antidotes to the poison. It is as a poison-lover that he 
persecutes and kills the seers who tell him how to make him- 
self whole; and it is as one who nostalgically yearns for vision 
that he despises the potential seer who forfeits his vision by 
wrong activity and the pursuit of power 


Unknown Indian Influences 


NOTHING is MORE INTERESTING, to those who believe that all 
religions have one source and one goal, than to trace the 
same ideas and expressions appearing in religious writings 
separated in time by thousands of years and in space by 

The thirteenth-century hymn of German origin I quoted 
in another of these articles * might have been sung by any 
student of the Vedas in India any time in the last five 
thousand years. As Ramakrishna said, all religions lead to 
God. It is interesting however to inquire in this place, where 
the contribution of India to forming the world's thought in 
religion is constantly illustrated, how far these parallelisms 
which we note in all lofty developments of religion are by 
direct borrowing or by convergence of all spiritual minds on 
the same goal, so that toward the end their courses lie side by 
side. This is of course one of the liveliest controversies in the 
subject of physical evolution and in that field will probably 
never be settled. Does the highest form of bodily lifeman 
spring from a single stock or have several blended to produce 
this astounding creature? Are the great apes like men because 
they are his cousins common descendents from a single an- 
cestral type or are they as they are because every animal 
species and genus must, if it continues and can keep for long 
enough unspecialized, become humanoid that is, develop a 
body which best permits the expression of a rational and ex- 
ploratory mind? This very same problem appears again in 
this subject under discussion in these paragraphs: Does the 
spiritual inheritance of man flow down one river bed from 
which irrigation channels spread to .left and right across the 
earth or are there many separate streams rising from different 

i See "Is there Progress?" p. 432. 


VEDANTA For The Western World 372 

springs though all fed from the same underlying water-table 
and all flowing to mingle in the same sea? Many authorities 
have felt that in India there is a source-land rich and constant 
enough in its yield of the Water of Life to have fed all man- 
kind's ecclesiastical channels. Others feel there is no evidence 
that India directly influenced, for instance, that stream of 
lofty devotion which arose in the Rhineland in the spring of 
the Middle Ages and flowed down until it died away (as an 
uncontaminated source) when late XVIIIth-century pietism 
found itself between a materialistic rationalism claiming to 
have all the facts and a rationalistic mysticism claiming to 
have all the immediate contemporary inspiration. Yet if 
India's influence on this peculiar Germanic thought (which 
combines metaphysical subtlety with intense devotionalism) 
is not direct there is no doubt that it is indirect. There is no 
sign of the complete transcendence of anthropomorphism as 
a goal, and thought and word as a medium, in Christian re- 
ligion until the introduction into the West of the thought of 
Bar Sudali the Syrian monk who calls himself by the "ghost 
name" Dionysius the Areopagite. This profoundly influences 
Scotus Erigena, the strange Irishman who in the ninth cen- 
tury is teaching at the court of Charlemagne's descendant 
Charles the Fat. 

Bar Sudali's work is not condemned by the church because 
in his book he praises the ecclesiastical hierarchy saying it is a 
mirror of the orders of angelic powers in heaven. This made 
a church council specifically praise the treatise which there- 
after naturally becomes sacrosanct. Erigena however wrote 
under his own name and was very unguarded in his theo- 
logical statements. Hence his work was condemned. Never- 
theless this strain of advanced thought continues to fascinate 
religious explorers and we can trace quite clearly the teach- 
ing of the Syrian monk of the fifth century shaping the 
thought of men on the upper Rhine in the fourteenth. Con- 
sidering how little there is in the pseudo Dionysius of tradi- 
tional Christianity it is hardly possible to avoid the con- 
clusion that here we have a strain of Indian thought entering 
the Levant and so spreading to western Europe. It is a fasci- 
nating sideline of research to try and discover how lofty a 
mysticism the Roman Church will accept and where and why 

373 Unknown Indian Influences 

it draws the line, calling one mystic anathema and another 
blessed. As a matter of fact condemnations seem to alternate 
with approvals, curses with benedictions. Bar Sudali is almost 
canonised: his student Erigena cut off from the church: 
Erigena's student Richard and other Victorines are treated 
as little short of being inspired. Their successor Eckhart is 
condemned: his spiritual sons Tauler and Suso are approved 
manuals for the devout. Up in Belgium, Ruysbroeck, using 
extremes of language which were sufficient to make Eckhart 
an outcast, is, on the contrary, named Doctor Ecstaticus, 
while in the south at Ulm in the Danubian basin Albert 
called the Great not only teaches a thought, Protestant in its 
severity towards symbols and Indian in its refusal to state the 
ultimate nature of God, Indian also in its equal statement of 
God's transcendence of thought and immanence in the mind 
of man, but is the revered teacher of Thomas Aquinas, the 
Doctor Angelicus of the Roman Church, the master inter- 
preter of orthodox theology. As this remarkable man, Albert, 
was teacher, administrator, Bishop of Ulm, a re-starter of 
natural science and some three years ago was canonised by 
the late Pope (perhaps more to vex the Nazis than to guide 
the orthodox) , we may take his work as a good example of 
that Western mysticism which has such strange parallels with 
the East; or, it may be, is a far away "runner" of Indian 
thought a root planted by the Ganges sprouting, a millen- 
nium after, on the Danube. At the end of his life, during which 
he had found time to write a whole library of books on an 
encyclopaedic range of subjects, the old man, who had out- 
lived his spectacular pupil Aquinas, decides that he must 
leave on record one more small volume. It is the most im- 
portant thing he can say. It is the secret of his life and living. 
He calls it simply De Adherendo Deo. In spite of all his 
multifarious activities he had had one interest and desire- 
how he might cling to God. Such a type, it might be thought, 
so combining work with devotion, must surely be following 
the path of Karma Yoga by offering all its incessant activities 
to God and so aiming at union. And so in a way this saintly 
Bishop must have been. Yet when we read in his remarkable 
little book surely here is a spirit which has another path 
for entering into the Presence, a path which seems closest to 

V ED ANT A For The Western World 374 

Raja Yoga. Consider the following words, remembering that 
they were written by a Catholic Bishop now a Saint of the 
Roman Church, whose intercession may therefore be sought 
by all the faithful when they pray. "Happy," he exclaims, "is 
the man who by continually effacing of all images and who 
by introversion and the lifting up of his mind to God, at last 
forgets and leaves behind all images. By this means he works 
inwardly with a naked, simple, pure intellect and affection 
about that most pure and simple object, God. See then that 
your whole exercise about God within you depend wholly 
and only on your naked intellect, affection and will. For in* 
deed this exercise cannot be discharged by any corporeal 
organs or the external senses but by that which constitutes 
(essentially) a man understanding and love. If so then you 
desire a safe stair and sure path to God, to arrive at the end 
of true bliss then with an intent mind earnestly desire and 
aspire after continual cleanness of heart and purity of mind 
with a constant calm and tranquility of the senses and recol- 
lecting of the affections of the heart, continually fixing them 
above. Work to simplify the heart that being immovable 
and at peace from any invading vain fantasms you may al- 
ways stand fast in the Lord within, to that degree as if your 
soul had already entered into that always present Now of 
eternity, that is, of the Deity. To mount to God is to enter 
into oneself. For he who so mounting and entering goes 
above and beyond himself, truly mounts up to God. The 
mind must then raise itself above itself and say, He whom 
above all I need is above all I know. And so, carried into 
the darkness of the mind, gathering itself into that all suffi- 
cient good the mind learns to stay so at home and with whole 
affection cleave and become habitually fixed in the supreme 
good within. So do until you become immutable and arrive 
at that true life which is God himself: perpetually, without 
any vicissitude of space or time reposing in that inward quiet 
and secret mansion of the Deity." Here is a pathway of such 
austere simplicity and directness that it would be hard to 
attribute it to any specific religion. One can but say this is 
the essence of all living religion. The austerity of the ap- 
proach may seem forbidding but, as the Saint remarks after 
a lifetime of practice and achievement, it is a "sure path and 

375 Unknown Indian Influences 

safe stair," as direct as a ladder, as clearly markedand as 
steep. And the goal can be seen so clearly even by those on 
the lower rungs that no one who has glimpsed it would 
choose to take any route more gently graded but more cir- 
cuitous. All the direct guides tell us then the same thing. 
The way is always open for those who wish to climb. About 
the less direct approaches approaches which permit us to 
postpone the time when we shall reach the clear air and 
the intense light, spiritual advisers differ and vary their direc- 
tions. But about the straight way to God for those who want 
him only, though the advice may be hard to follow, the path 
is lit by all the enlightened ones who have found him, it 
leads without deviation to him and every soul who cares to 
give all its energy to scale that path may in this life achieve 
the only end which makes meaning of life, the Eternal 

Tradings in ^Mysticism 


I AM OFTEN ASKED by friends or unknown correspondents to 
suggest a course of reading in the literature of mysticism. 
My own knowledge of that literature is very far from being 
exhaustive; but I have read enough to be able to give what 
I think may be useful advice to those who have had fewer 
opportunities for study than myself. In the paragraphs that 
follow I shall name and, where necessary, briefly describe 
certain books, from the reading of which one may derive a 
good working knowledge of the nature and historical devel- 
opment of mysticism. It should be noted that most of the 
books mentioned belong to the literature of Western spir- 
ituality. This is due, not to deliberate choice, but to the 
limitations imposed by ignorance and the inaccessibility of 
the relevant books. The compilation of even an elementary 
bibliography of Oriental mysticism is entirely beyond my 
powers, and I shall therefore mention only a few books which 
I personally have found illuminating and helpful. 

Before embarking on my task, I feel impelled to utter a 
few words of warning in regard to mystical literature in gen- 
eral. There have been published, in recent years, vast num- 
bers of books dealing with meditation and contemplation, 
yoga and mystical experience, higher consciousness and in- 
tuitive knowledge of Reality. Many of these books were 
written by people with excellent intentions, but lamentably 
ignorant of the history and science of mysticism, and lacking 
any genuine spiritual experience. In other cases the authors 
did not even have good intentions, but were concerned, not 
in the least with the knowledge of God, but with the exploi- 
tation of certain yogic and mystical practices for the purpose 
of getting wealth, success and physical well-being. Such books, 
whether merely silly, ill-informed and "phony," or down- 


377 Readings in ^Mysticism 

right bad and pernicious, should be avoided at all cost. When 
choosing books on mysticism a good rule is to confine your- 
self to the writings either of acknowledged saints and persons 
whom you have good reason to believe are on the road to 
sanctity, or else of reputable scholars. Outside these two 
categories of writers, the reader whose concern is with en- 
lightenment cannot hope to find the smallest profit. 

The first-hand experiences of those who are not saints not 
even better-than-average human beings may be startling and 
exciting enough on their own psychic level; but they will cer- 
tainly not be genuine experiences of ultimate Reality, or 
God. For such genuine spiritual experiences happen, as a 
general rule, only to those who have gone some way along 
the road of purgation, and themselves lead to an improve- 
ment in the quality of the experiencer's living an im- 
provement amounting in exceptional cases to that total 
transformation of character, manifesting itself in sanctity. 
Psychic experiences, which do not contribute to sanctifica- 
tion, are not experiences of God, but merely of certain un- 
familiar aspects of our psycho-physical universe. The validity 
of a supposed experience of God is in some sort guaranteed 
by the sanctification of the person who has the experience. 
Where there is no evidence of sanctification, there is no 
reason to suppose that the experience had anything to do 
with God. It is a significant fact that occultism and spiritual- 
ism have produced no saints. 

In view of all this, the serious student should pay no atten- 
tion to any descriptions of first-hand experiences, except 
those written by saints and by persons who show evidence 
of advancing towards saintliness, and to no second-hand 
documents except those written by sound scholars, who may 
be relied upon to give an accurate account of saints and their 

Spirituality is the art of achieving union with God, and 
consists of two branches asceticism and mysticism, the morti- 
fication of the self and that contemplation by means of 
which the soul makes contact with ultimate Reality. Morti- 
fication without contemplation, and contemplation without 
mortification are both useless, and may even be positively 
harmful. That is why all genuine mystical literature is also 

VEDANTA For The Western World 378 

ascetical literature, while all good ascetical literature (such 
as "The Imitation of Christ") treats also, explicitly or by 
implication, of mystical prayer. The combination of asceti- 
cism and mysticism is very clearly seen in Buddhist and 
Hindu writings. Thus, in the Buddhist eightfold path, the 
first seven steps prescribe a complete course of mortification 
of the ego, while the eighth inculcates the duty of mystical 
contemplation. The ascetical teaching of the Buddha is 
found in the best known of the sermons attributed to him. 
Selections from these may be read in the recently published 
"Bible of the World" (a valuable anthology from the ca- 
nonical books of the principal religions of the East and West), 
and in Warren's "Buddhism in Translation," a more ex- 
tended anthology. Edward Thompson's historical novel, 
"The Youngest Disciple," treats the later life and teachings of 
the Buddha in fictional form, but with strict fidelity to the 
original texts. 

For detailed descriptions of the techniques employed by 
the Buddhists in contemplation, one may consult "The Path 
of Purity," published by the Pali Text Society and, for what 
concerns the Northern school, the three volumes of transla- 
tions from the Tibetan, edited by Evans Wentz and pub- 
lished by the Oxford University Press. The volume on 
Tibetan yoga contains a valuable collection of techniques of 
concentration, meditation and contemplation. The biography 
of Milarepa graphically describes the life of a Buddhist saint. 
And the Bardo Thodol, or Tibetan Book of the Dead (one of 
the world's religious masterpieces), sets forth the significance 
of contemplation in relation to the after-life of man. 

Those who wish to read brief, but scholarly, summaries of 
Buddhist thought and practices will find what they want in 
"What is Buddhism?", compiled and published by the 
Buddhist Lodge, London; "Mahayana Buddhism," by Mrs. 
Suzuki, and "Buddhism," by Professor Rhys Davids. Particu- 
lar aspects of Buddhist spirituality are treated under numerous 
headings in Hastings' Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, 
a valuable work of reference covering the entire field of 

The spiritual literature of Hinduism is so enormous that 
the unprofessional Western student must, in mere self- 

379 Readings in ^Mysticism 

preservation, confine himself to a minute selection. Here are 
a few of the indispensable books. The Bhagavad Gita, with 
some good commentary, such as that by Aurobindo Ghose; 
the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, with the commentaries of Vive- 
kananda; the Upanishads, translated in the Sacred Books of 
the East series; Sankara, in Jacob's translation, or at second 
hand, in some brief history of Indian philosophy, such as 
Max Muller's or Deussen's; the life of Rarnakrishna, and the 
writings of Vivekananda on the various kinds of yoga. From 
these books one may derive, not indeed a comprehensive 
view of Hindu spirituality, but at least a pretty accurate syn- 
thetic picture of its fundamental character. The knowledge 
so gained will be a fair and characteristic sample of the total 
knowledge which can only be acquired by years of intensive 

Spirituality in the Far East is mainly Buddhist or Taoist. 
In the sphere of Buddhism, China was content to follow in 
the footsteps of the Mahayana teachers of northern India and 
Tibet. From sources derived from China, Japan developed 
that strange and not entirely satisfactory kind of spirituality, 
Zen mysticism. This is most conveniently studied in the writ- 
ings of Professor Suzuki, who has published many volumes, 
dealing with Zen in all its aspects. 

Taoist spirituality is best represented by the first and great- 
est of its canonical books, the Tao Te King of Lao-Tzu. To 
this most wonderful scripture one may return again and 
again, certain of finding, with every enrichment of one's own 
experience of life, ever deeper and subtler significances in its 
allusive, strangely abbreviated and enigmatical utterances. 

In compiling my elementary bibliography of Western spir- 
ituality, I shall begin with a list of sound scholarly volumes 
dealing with its historical development, its philosophy and its 
practical procedures, and go on to enumerate a few of the 
most valuable of its original, first-hand documents. 

Perhaps the most comprehensive general history of Chris- 
tian asceticism and mysticism is the "Christian Spirituality" 
of Father Pourrat. Three volumes of this work, covering the 
period from gospel times to the middle of the seventeenth 
century, have been translated into English. 

Other sound and well documented works are Evelyn 

VEDANTA For The Western World 380 

Underbill's "Mysticism," Dean Inge's "Christian Mysticism," 
Saudreau's "Life of Union with God' 1 and Poulain's "The 
Graces of Interior Prayer." This last book is probably the 
most elaborate, subtle and exhaustive analysis of the psy- 
chology of mystical states ever attempted and, despite a cer- 
tain rather forbidding dryness of style, deserves to be care- 
fully read by any serious student of the subject. 

Another great monument of French scholarship in this 
field is Henri Brmond's "Histoire Litteraire du Sentiment 
Religieux en France," a work in eight volumes, of which, so 
far as I know, not all have yet been translated into English. 
Brmond's book treats exhaustively of the revival of mysti- 
cism in France during the seventeenth century, and is a treas- 
ure house of the most fascinating biographical material, 
copiously illustrated by citations, often of great literary 
beauty, from the works of the spiritual writers of the period. 

Many Catholic writers have written volumes of detailed 
instruction on the art of mental prayer and contemplation. 
Among the best of these (and still, fortunately, accessible in 
a reprint) is the "Holy Wisdom" of Augustine Baker, an 
English Benedictine monk of the seventeenth century. Baker 
was himself an advanced mystic, and the book in which he 
embodies his teachings is wonderfully complete, lucid and 

For those who wish to know something about other Catho- 
lic methods of meditation and contemplation "The Art of 
Mental Prayer," by Bede Frost, may be recommended. This 
is a brief, but thoroughly scholarly, modern work, summariz- 
ing the spiritual teachings of a number of mystical and as- 
cetic writers from the sixteenth century onwards. A good 
contemporary manual on the same subject is Father Leen's 
"Progress through Mental Prayer." "Spiritual Exercises," by 
A. Tillyard, includes in a single volume a number of the best- 
known Christian methods and of analogous methods em- 
ployed by Hindu, Buddhist and Sufi mystics. 

Valuable modern studies of individual mystics include 
Bede Frost's monumental volume on St. John of the Cross, 
Von Hugel's monograph on St. Catherine of Genoa and 
Wautier d'Aygalliers' "Ruysbroeck, the Admirable." Slighter 

3 8 1 Readings in ^Mysticism 

sketches of mediaeval and early-modern mystics may be 
found in Miss Underbill's "Mystics of the Church" and in 
"The Flowering of Mysticism," by Rufus Jones. 

We have now to consider the first-hand documents of 
mysticism the autobiographies, the journals, the spiritual 
letters, the descriptive and speculative treatises left by the 
great masters of Western spirituality. Here are a few of the 
most significant. The Confessions of St. Augustine; the Life 
of St. Teresa, written by herself; the Journal of John Wool- 
man; the spiritual letters of St. Francois de Sales, of St. Jeanne 
Chantal, of Fnelon; the "Mystical Theology" and "Divine 
Names" of Dionysius the Areopagite (interesting in them- 
selves and historically significant as the bridge connecting 
Christian mysticism with neo-platonic and Oriental thought); 
the sermons and other writings of Meister Eckhart, the West- 
ern mystic who approaches most nearly to the Vedantic posi- 
tion; the short but incomparably profound and beautiful 
"Cloud of Unknowing," by an anonymous English mystic 
of the fourteenth century; the Theologia Cermanica; the 
various writings of Tauler; the "Imitation of Christ" and 
the "Following of Christ 'the latter once attributed to 
Tauler, but now given to another unknown author and re- 
garded as somewhat heretical; the writings of St. John of the 
Cross; the "Introduction to the Devout Life" and "Treatise 
of the Love of God," by St. Francois de Sales; the "Spiritual 
Doctrine" of Lallemant and the little treatise by Surin, called 
"Abandonment." All these are not only admirable in them- 
selves, but possess the further merit of being reasonably ac- 
cessible. Anyone who reads even some of them, together with 
one or two of the scholarly volumes previously cited, will 
possess a very fair knowledge of Western mysticism, its char- 
acter, its psychology, its practices and its philosophy. 

In conclusion, let me cite a paragraph on the reading of 
spiritual books from the pen of Augustine Baker. "But as 
for spiritual books, the intention of an internal liver ought 
not to be such as is that of those who live extroverted lives, 
who read them out of a vain curiosity, so as to be thereby en- 
abled to discourse of such sublime matters without any par- 
ticular choice or consideration whether they be suitable to 

VEDANTA For The Western World 382 

their spirit for practice or not. A contemplative soul in read- 
ing such books must not say, this is a good book or passage, 
but, moreover, this is useful and proper for me, and by God's 
grace I will endeavor to put in execution, in due time and 
place, the good instructions contained in it, so far as they 
are good for me." 


^Mysticism in the "Theologia 


IT is OF CONSIDERABLE INTEREST to those who today are at- 
tempting to put into current practice the teaching of Reli- 
gion as it has been most profoundly expressed by India, to 
see how far the mystics of the West following the Christian 
tradition succeeded in rendering in Western terms thoughts 
which we today would mainly classify as Oriental. For that 
purpose this short essay is taking one specific book. This 
book, however, though it is short and anonymous, neverthe- 
less had a great influence on European religion at the critical 
time when the papacy was losing its ascendency and men 
were daringnot seldom with unhappy results, but inevi- 
tablyto attempt to think for themselves and to experience 
religion "on their own." The book in question is the famous 
Theologia Germanica. Of course it is no theology in the 
usual sense of the word but rather a brief manual for in- 
struction in living the inner spiritual life. Nevertheless it is 
seldom possible and certainly at that time and place was 
definitely not to give people instruction in actual spiritual 
living and the necessary exercises without introducing a cer- 
tain amount of actual theology. If you are to teach a man to 
sail you need not at once teach him to read oceanic maps but 
quite soon he will have to master the meaning of charts if he 
is to handle his ship in any actual seas. The author's name is 
unknown, probably at his own wish, for these associates who 
banded themselves together under the name of the Friends 
of God cultivated anonymity, dreading that spiritual pre- 
tentiousness which is a greater obstacle to enlightenment 
than physical indulgence or than possessions. We know, how- 
ever, his associates and the scene in which he lived his life. 


VEDANTA For The Western World 384 

The Friends of God made a loose association, of layfolk, 
monks, and priests, all of whom were bonded by the practice 
of spiritual exercises and by the tie of secrecy. This author 
probably lived at that terrible time when man and nature, 
nature with the great plague called the Black Death and man 
by a furious, protracted and unstinted feud between the Pope 
and the Emperor, were doing their best to make ordinary 
kindly human living impossible. The reaction of the ordi- 
nary man was despair or hideous brutality: the reaction to 
the same stimuli by these other t few, the men who loved God, 
was for their lives to be raised to an ever more constant and 
deeper communion with him. This book found an immedi- 
ate answer from such seekers. The author, one may say "of 
course," is strictly orthodox. Yet the reader today feels that 
though he is constantly careful to bring his teaching in line 
with tradition and the Church's rulings, he does not depend 
on these, and moreover sometimes his actual findings do not 
square very well with the tradition. No doubt the author 
was quite honest in his attempt to combine what may not in 
fact have been the same conclusions those of his own soul 
and those of the Church. He had very good and right reasons 
for wanting to find that the Church was or should be teach- 
ing the loftiest spirituality. The Church was the only channel 
of grace for the ordinary man. Cut off from that source, mud- 
died though it was, he would die of spiritual thirst. Nor was 
that all. The world was already full of people who had so 
cut themselves off, declared the Church to be hopeless 
which was all too easy to believe and that they themselves 
were the true and full channels of illumination, which was 
pleasant for themselves to believe but certainly far from easy 
for anyone who watched their lives to take as true or wise. 
Against these types common enough today the author turns 
with sound austerity. If he has to choose between the Church 
and these vain indulgents who see God everywhere and 
preach the free spirit so that they can live loosely then he 
chooses the Church with all its mistakes. That in brief is 
the setting of this important book a world sick to death, 
most men despairing, a few using the breakdown of morality 
as an excuse for grotesque license, and far fewer turning all 
the more earnestly to find Reality. 

385 ^Mysticism in the "Theologia Qermanica" 

Yet the teaching has certain apparent inconsistencies which 
do not seem to be accounted for by what is said above the 
need to back a dying authority against a worse, far worse, 
anarchy. In the writer's own spiritual thinking there seem 
two strains which he himself in his own heart never quite 
reconciled. One strain is that familiar in the near East and 
the Eastern orthodox Church and taken over from those 
centres by the Western Church. That is mortificatory. The 
body is "this sack of worms" a phrase from Luther's last 
sermon, for Luther never settled accounts with his body 
either as a monk or after his breaking his vows and marry- 
ing. The teaching of the Fathers of the Egyptian deserts is 
here dominant a sick body is the greatest health for the 
soul. They denied Paul's teaching that the body is "the Tem- 
ple of the Holy Ghost." All life is to be an agony. The author 
tells us that Christ from the moment he was born till he 
died on the Cross never had anything but moment after mo- 
ment of acute pain a picture certainly not sustained by the 
Gospels. As Christ always suffered so must we. We must 
never attempt to attain to that calm which is above all pain. 
That is not for this life. That is for heaven after death. The 
thought of illumination here, after which, in a way, this 
world is heaven, a doctrine which Eckhart actually states (say- 
ing he has no wish to die and go to heaven for heaven will 
only be more in quantity, not more in quality, from what he 
has now been given by God's grace). Yet the author, when 
he has said these things and given the clear picture of the 
man who torments himself body and mind so that after death 
he may have earned a life of endless joy, says a number of 
other things which show that, though that was the orthodox 
picture for those who wished to live the higher life, he and 
his saintly friends had found something different, something 
which really did not fit into that picture. He speaks of a man 
he knows who has attained to what we may all attain, and it 
is the constant power of going into the presence of God. He 
speaks of any man as long as he is here "passing from heaven 
to hell," from banishment from the presence of God to full 
knowledge of that presence. In this statement there are two 
things which refuse to fit into the mortificatory, after-death- 
heaven design. The first is the obvious fact that when you 

VEDANTA For The Western World 386 

are in the presence of God you are, as the author allows, in 
Heaven, and you cannot be said to be in utter wretchedness 
simply awaiting the release of death. Secondly, he notes that 
when you are in "hell" even then you would rather be there 
than "with creatures," for though no man may comfort you 
nor would you take comfort of any, yet this state is both safe 
and blessed. It seems clear that if this means anything, and 
with an author as honest and as acute as this it must, it means 
that the soul is then filled with such an intense longing for 
God that it knows it is separate from Him and so suffers, but 
the fact which makes this suffering better than any pleasure 
is that in it is such a vivid conviction of God's Being that 
one's own loss and damnation matter nothing. HE IS and in 
that fact everything else, oneself of course included, is well 
lost. It seems rather misguiding to apply to such a state, 
which most earnest seekers have tasted, if not drunk of, the 
name Hell. Hell is self-centred despair, if it is anything. In fact 
a classic description of hell is given by this same great author. 
Nothing, he tells us with that assurance which we know in 
ourselves is true the moment we read itnothing burns in 
hell save the self and its self-will. The author, then, it seems 
would have done better had he been able to make use of a 
freer phraseology and a more exact metaphysic than the 
rigid theology of his day permitted. Another point of con- 
fusion seems to appear, not when he is trying to describe the 
state of alert austerity in which the soul must live if it is to 
travel toward union with God, a union which does not de- 
pend on death but upon the degree to which the soul can 
lose itself in God, but when he is speaking of those upper 
states of wonderful result into which the soul, by God's grace 
working on its dedicated will, may enter. He describes the 
steps of purgation, illumination and union. But the illumi- 
nation is not the intense quality we now recognize in the 
records of the great Oriental saints, and in one or two of the 
West, while the union seems to fall far short of any Samadhi. 
Is this due to the fact that the author has made a ruling 
which he often repeats, that perfect calm is not and must not 
be attained in this life? He seems to feel that it would be 
wrong to attempt to know God in this life. And yet when one 
has said that, on ample evidence, one comes on other passages 

387 ^Mysticism in the "Theologia Qermanica" 

where he says roundly that a man may "look into eternity" 
and receive clear foretastes of the eternal blessedness. In fact 
it does not seem possible to reconcile this great devotee's 
findings. We are faced, it would seem, not with a finished 
treatise of the spiritual life by a master proficient but the 
notes of a great seeker and finder who puts down all that he 
knows and does not try to make it consistent. His picture of 
Christ's suffering throws a little light on these antinomies 
which he feels he must somehow preserve and set down in 
all their self-contradictoriness. He tells us that though Christ 
suffered horribly all his life and his Passion was more terrible 
than human suffering can ever be, nevertheless Christ "had 
two eyes" and though the one eye looked on the world and 
suffered in it all the time prodigiously, the other looked 
upon his Father and never suffered at all. That picture of 
the Avatar, "perfect God in touching His Godhead and per- 
fect Man in touching His Manhood" is of course the picture 
the so-called Athanasian Creed gives of Jesus of Nazareth 
and it is a picture which Aurobindo Ghose says the Gita 
renders as Krishna's interpretation of Avatarhood. We in the 
West are now swinging away from the picture of the suffering 
God-man to the picture and ideal of the serene Buddha, who 
though of course he has suffered and still can feel yet. those 
feelings never disturb his expression, still less the serenity of 
his mind. He does not weep for a dead friend whom he is 
about to raise to life nor over a doomed capital of his race 
because it will not get rid of its overtaking karma. Yet of 
course it is possible to see that a Son of God could take on 
humanity so closely that he would share their sorrows with 
a sympathy which they could understand when they could 
not grasp his serenity while all the time his soul in itself and 
in its full consciousness looked on; the eye fixed on God 
translating all the tragedy which came in through the eye 
fixed on man. 

Probably even an authority which the writer of this note 
certainly is not could not make a consistent picture of the 
spiritual life from the Theologia Germanica but because the 
spiritual life can probably never be at our level consistent but 
always somewhat of a paradox and abounding in antinomies, 
this book is a help to all seekers, with its manifest sincerity, 

VEDANTA For The Western World 388 

its flashing insights, its deep unbroken devotion. It is also a 
great challenge to us today showing how adversity made these 
men able to become under the terrible pressure of their days 
more and more fit for the great title they took for them- 
selvesthe Friends of God. 

The Spiritual ^Message of TDante 


DANTE, AS A MAN, belongs to the middle ages; his life 
stretches from the last part of the XIII century, probably the 
most glorious century in the Christian era, to the first two 
decades of the XIV century, which marks the beginning of 
the transition from the feudal age to the modern age, from 
scholasticism to humanism. He was educated in the liberal 
arts as they were taught in his times; he studied scholastic 
philosophy, following with equal interest the teaching of the 
two great rival religious orders of that period, the Domini- 
cans and the Franciscans; he took part in the political life of 
his native city, Florence, and also in the many feuds and 
quarrels of the powerful families which caused so much harm 
and such tragic confusion in the Italy of that century; he 
accepted without discussion the dogmas of the Christian 
Church, and he shared many of the superstitions and fears of 
his contemporaries. In short, in his intellectual formation he 
was typically medieval; in his philosophical writings he used 
the language of the Schools and the syllogistic or deductive 
method, and never questioned the authority of Aristotle: 
"the master of those that know." But all this is only the 
transient element of his nature and of his work; it is the 
frame, and not the picture. If we really want to understand 
Dante and his wonderful vision, we must not stop at the 
outer intellectual form in which he presents his message, but 
go deeper until we grasp its spiritual meaning which tran- 
scends the limits of our mind and is the revelation of the 
Eternal. We must also remember that Dante is essentially a 
poet, though he is also a profound thinker, and that he 
reaches certain universal truths using his intuitive powers 
rather than his reason; he is not a systematic, constructive 
philosopher like his master St. Thomas Aquinas, but an 


VEDANTA For The Western World 390 

artist endowed with an insight that has rarely been equalled 
and never surpassed in the field of literature. 

I said that Dante is essentially a poet, but a poet who is 
also a prophet; a "vates," to use the Latin term. There are 
two fundamentally different types of poets, taking the word 
in its etymological meaning of a maker, a creator: the pure 
artist and the prophet. The poet who is a pure artist has no 
special message to give us; he looks at the world, at nature, 
at man, with eyes full of wonder, and listens to mysterious 
sounds and voices not heard by the common man; and he 
tries to express what he sees and what he hears, in beautiful 
words in which we may still find a faint echo of the sweet 
melodies that gladdened or saddened his heart. He interprets 
life as beauty, just as a scientist interprets it as order, or law. 
He is not a visionary, because he sees more deeply and more 
clearly than the psychologist and the philosopher into the 
soul of man and gives voice to the infinite variety of human 
emotions. He is a dreamer, no doubt, as we all are, more or 
less; but with this great difference, that while our dreams are 
inconsistent and meaningless, his dream has an eternal value, 
is the revelation of beauty. He is the poet that Shelley de- 
scribes to us in those magic lines: 

Nor seeks nor finds he mortal blisses 

But feeds on the aerial kisses 

Of shapes that haunt thought's wildernesses. 

He will watch from dawn to gloom 

The lake-reflected sun illume 

The yellow bees in the ivy bloom 

Nor heed, nor see what things they be; 

But from these create he can 

Forms more real than mortal man, 

Nurslings of immortality! 

He seldom asks himself what is the meaning of life and 
whether it has a goal or not: he accepts it, not passively, but 
actively, and makes it more bearable by adding beauty to it. 
Shakespeare is undoubtedly the supreme representative of 
this type of poet; he is the pure artist; he has no ideology, 
no special philosophy or creed to impart to us; he interprets 
life as he sees it, without trying to explain the why, the 

39* The Spiritual ^Message of T)ante 

whence or the whereto: . . . "Men must endure Their go- 
ing hence even as their coming hither; Ripeness is all." For 
him life is a dream, a shadow of a dream; but, like Prospero 
in "The Tempest/' by a simple touch of his magic wand he 
can transform the world of dream into a world of reality 
whose dwellers are more real than mortal man. 

Dante belongs to the other class of poets, the prophets, the 
seers, the religious teachers. He has a message to convey to 
us; he has a mission, that of showing us the true path to God, 
the way to salvation. He firmly believes that our human ex- 
istence has a goal, not in this world, but in a world beyond, 
and so he does not accept life as it is, but teaches us what it 
should be. This earthly existence of ours is not a dream, but 
a trial, a preparation for an eternal life; death is not the end, 
"ultima linea rerum," but the beginning. In sharp contrast 
with Shakespeare, who is so impersonal, who loses himself in 
that infinitely various world of man which he creates with 
his wonderful imagination, Dante is intensely personal, 
though he manages to attain the highest form of impersonal- 
ity when, through his extraordinary imaginative power, he 
makes us feel and realize that he is the personification of all 
humanity; and his personality is so strong, so overpowering, 
that we are fascinated by it almost as much as by the marvel- 
ous beauty of his poetry. Moreover Dante is very much in- 
terested in all that is going on around him; he takes an active 
part in the political, social, religious, artistic and even scien- 
tific life of his time; he is a fighter, first for his party, later on 
for an ideal of peace and justice, and at the end for a spiritual 
truth of which he is the prophet, and in the name of which 
he feels justified to judge his contemporaries. It is evident, 
therefore, that to look upon Dante simply as a supreme poet 
and to read his Divine Comedy only as a work of art, is to 
renounce the possibility of understanding his great spiritual 

It would be folly to try and condense into a short article 
the great vision of Dante. He presents it to us in an allegorical 
form, because allegory was for him the best means of ex- 
pressing the deeper, mystic meaning of his teaching. We must 
remember that, for the medieval artist and religious teacher, 
symbolism was the natural way of communication, as it ren- 

VEDANTA For The Western World 392 

dered in a realistic, immediate form the meaning of an ab- 
stract idea which common people were unable to understand 
otherwise. For instance, the idea of sacrifice and of salvation 
was, and still is, concretely expressed in the symbol of the 
Cross; and the Holy Virgin, whom Dante worshiped almost 
as a feminine personification of God, not only expressed 
womanhood in its essential attributes; mother, spouse and 
daughter, but also the idea of compassion, and at the same 
time symbolized the eternal link between the divine and 
the human. 

Dante in his poem imagines that on the night before Good 
Friday of 1300, the year of the great papal jubilee which 
marked an intense religious revival and was thus peculiarly 
appropriate for a moral awakening, he comes to himself in a 
dark wood, wild and entangled, having gone astray from the 
straight path. This frightful, dreary forest is the symbol of 
the errors, confusion and vices of mankind. He tries hard to 
escape from it, and manages to do so after a painful struggle. 
Then he looks upward and sees a little hill whose top is 
illumined by the rays of the rising sun: the hill of righteous- 
ness, lit by spiritual truth. He moves toward it, but his path 
is obstructed by three fierce looking beasts, a lion, a leopard 
and a she-wolf, symbolizing the three fundamental human 
sins: incontinence, violence and fraud. He is slowly driven 
backwards toward darkness and destruction, when suddenly 
a man, or rather a shadow, appears before him; it is Virgil, 
the great Latin poet of the Roman empire, who personifies 
reason, human understanding. Virgil tells him that the only 
way to escape spiritual death and to attain salvation is to 
visit with him the realm of the dead, to descend into the 
black pit of Hell and after to ascend again to light and climb 
the steep slopes of the mountain of Purgatory. Then, having 
reached the top of the mountain, where the Terrestrial Para- 
dise is, he will be ready to fly up to Heaven under the guid- 
ance of Beatrix, the lady he had loved in his youth and who 
is now the symbol of Revelation, divine intelligence. 

Literally interpreted, the Divine Comedy is the narrative 
of this journey through the three realms of the other world, 
a journey described so vividly, with such an intense realism, 
that the reader is apt to forget it is only a vision. Allegorically 

393 Th* Spiritual ^Message of ID ante 

the narrative symbolizes the regeneration of the individual 
soul that, under the guidance of reason personified by Virgil, 
becomes aware of the true nature of sin, a process typified by 
the journey through Hell; and then is ready to undertake its 
purification by discipline, which is typified by the laborious 
ascent of Purgatory. Finally, having regained its purity, the 
soul, guided no longer by reason but by revelation repre- 
sented by Beatrix, can mount upwards to the ultimate vision. 
But the allegory in Dante is not purely poetical; it is the 
expression of a profound mystical experience. If we follow 
the poet on his mystic journey through Hell, Purgatory and 
Paradise to its ultimate consummation in the vision of God, 
not merely with the wish to enjoy the beauties of the poem, 
but also with the hope of sharing a great experience, then, 
and then only, we will be in a position to grasp its real mean- 
ing. Then we will realize that the Divine Comedy, though a 
marvelous work of art, is first of all and above all, an act of 
faith; the creation of a great soul struggling to find its way to 
God and yearning to help other souls to their spiritual salva- 
tion. But, since the poem is an act of faith, in order to under- 
stand its true message, one must have faith, one must share 
with the poet at least the fundamental belief that man's life 
has a meaning and a goal which transcend the limits of our 
intellect and cannot be perceived and explained by our self- 
conscious mind. Dante, being a Christian and a man of the 
middle ages, accepts the tenets and the dogmas of his Church; 
but, as a true mystic, he sees beyond the veil that hides the 
spiritual truth, and gazes at the light coming "from that 
Serene which is untroubled ever." It is this spiritual truth 
that interests us today, not the theological frame in which he 
presents it; and this truth may be summed up in a single 
sentence: "God has created the world through love, and it is 
through love, which is the highest form of understanding, 
that man can realize the unity of life and return to God," 
Unfortunately today many people, owing to a mistaken scien- 
tific training, refuse to accept the idea of God; they believe 
only in facts, in intellectual evidence, and God's existence 
cannot be proved by logic. And yet, as another great Italian 
has so beautifully said in a little book which he wrote for the 
working class and entitled "The Duties of Man/' "God ex- 

VEDANTA For The Western World 394 

ists, because we exist; to try and prove His existence is blas- 
phemy, as to deny it is folly. Everyone consciously or uncon- 
sciously worships God whenever he feels life, because God is 
life; he cannot be understood, he can be felt and loved." The 
God that Dante worships, "the Love that moves the Sun and 
all the Stars," is the same Creative Energy of which con- 
temporary science speaks as the only source of life, immanent 
and transcendent at the same time. But even those who are 
agnostic, who do not believe in God, and they are more to be 
pitied than condemned, can not only appreciate the beauty 
of Dante's poetry but also accept part of his vision if inter- 
preted as a personal experience and a psychological docu- 
ment. Dante tells us in the first two "Cantiche" that man, 
being imperfect, sins; and if the sin becomes a habit, he be- 
comes a slave to it, he is no longer able to use his reason and 
his power of will to get rid of it; then his moral and intel- 
lectual disintegration begins, and he is, to use the theological 
term, damned. The terrible consequences of this degradation 
of man to the level of a brute are vividly presented to us in 
the allegory of Hell; it is Virgil, the human reason, that 
shows them to us. But evidently, if reason is capable of ana- 
lyzing evil, it is powerful enough to avoid it, to turn its back 
to darkness, to ascend again toward light, and then, with an 
effort of will, to climb the mountain of purgation. It is a stiff 
climb, as a very severe discipline is needed in order to elimi- 
nate all that is selfish, wicked and irrational in our being; it 
is a hard and painful struggle to conquer that moral freedom 
which is latent in every human soul. Once the purification is 
completed, man becomes free in the sense that he is guided 
only by reason which controls all his feelings and emotions. 
This moral freedom is the final goal for the agnostic who, I 
suppose, will be prepared to follow Dante up to this point; 
but for Dante, as for all religious teachers, this is the begin- 
ning of a new life, the awakening of a higher form of con- 
sciousness. Reason, that distinguishes man from the brute, 
gives us the clear knowledge of the unity of life, but the 
realization of this unity can only be obtained through love 
and faith. For Dante, moral wisdom is only the preparation 
for a spiritual wisdom that leads us to the vision of God; and 
this is the theme of his Paradise. It might be easier for the 

395 *fhe Spiritual ^Message of T)ante 

rationalist to accept Dante's creed if he realized that all great 
geniuses, without exception, have not only believed in this 
spiritual power, but made use of it in the creation of their 
work. The intuition of a scientist like Newton or Galileo, 
the inspiration of a poet or an artist like Shakespeare, Mi- 
chelangelo or Beethoven, the illumination of a saint or a 
leader like St. Francis or Lincoln, are different expressions of 
the same Eternal Creative Force. Dante, being at the same time 
a poet and a mystic, had both the inspiration and the illumi- 
nation which lifted him up to the vision of God; and he was 
able to convey to us at least an idea of his wonderful experi- 
ence in his marvelous work of art. 


on brother Lawrence's "Practice 
of the Presence of QodI 


As THE SWAMI drew attention last year to the fact that 
Brother Lawrence was one of the modern Western devotees 
who .attained to a definite level of enlightenment, it may be 
of interest to readers to consider in some detail Brother Law- 
rence's actual account of his method. As the following lines 
suggest, that method, though the description of it has been 
popular, has owed its popularity not to the fact that it is 
really simple or rudimentary but because we have felt senti- 
mental about a pretty title and a charming old man. 

This book has had uncommon success, awakening trust 
and response in Catholics and Protestants alike. That is be- 
cause it is so simple, direct, sincere, and good that no one 
can doubt the author's bona fides nor fail to wish to imitate 
his life. The method he suggests is so plain that there are no 
theological terms over which dispute and confusion could 
arise nor procedures with which people of different practices 
might find it difficult to comply. A system which requires 
only a minimum theology that God is all-powerful, all-wise, 
and all-loving and which dispenses with all method save the 
constant reminding of ourself of that one fact that God is 
always present and only asks for our attention certainly we 
can understand its appeal, especially when we learn the re- 
sults yielded by its practice. And yet if that is so why, though 
the book has been so popular and is so simple, have the re- 
sults not been more striking? Long before God ceased to be 
believed in as Catholic and Protestant believed three genera- 
tions ago, this little book was being studied, and its practice 


397 &otes on ^Brother La<wrcnce>s 'Practice / 

not practiced. Indeed had its practice been practiced God 
would still be believed in as Lawrence believed in Him. 
People who studied it must have wished to adopt its method; 
but somehow they failed. They read, admired, they wished 
to follow: they did not arrive; they did not become such as 
Lawrence. He and those like him say the way is simple and 
cannot fail. They arrived: there is no doubt. Why have we, 
using their instructions, fallen so far short in result? 

The usual answer is that they were inherently gifted. With 
any method or none they would have done remarkably well. 
It is true that many people seem incapable of understanding 
what the spiritual life is about they are like color-blind peo- 
ple taken to look at pictures, or the tone-deaf at a concert. 
But those who care to study such books as Lawrence's, they 
are not in such a category. You are not color-blind if you 
delight in looking at masterpieces of painting. If, after that, 
you proceed to produce daubs in which your attempts at 
color harmonies are clumsy smears or hideous discordances 
there is something wrong with you other than the lack of 
direct apprehension. In painting it has been found that the 
fault was the lack of teaching or wrong teaching leading to 
wrong method and discouragement. In painting that mat- 
ters but not much a few thousands of people denied a pleas- 
ant hobby and fine outlet: a few hundreds of pleasant pic- 
tures not painted and bad pictures done in their stead. In the 
spiritual life that matters incalculablymatters for the spir- 
itual who are stranded or sunken matters for the world with 
these their pioneer light-ships lost and the whole convoy of 
civilization guideless on a dark sea. We cannot then discuss 
this problem by saying that the world is divided into Saints 
who can attain God's Presence and into the rest of us who 
can't, and that the books the Saints write and we read are as 
little use to us, and indeed as little for the Saints themselves, 
as color charts to help the color-seeing or the color-blind to 
see colors. We need teaching: we who study the Saints and 
study our conditions individual and social: we who realize 
how only by such characters, and by our being able to pro- 
duce such characters, can we salvage ourselves and our civili- 
zation. The Saints do not start perfect, very far from it, and 

VEDANTA For The Western World 398 

they did work very hard constantly and pertinaciously as tney 
rose from level to level. 

So we can return to Brother Lawrence and his popular 
booklet. The answer does not lie in "inborn genius' 1 : that is 
not the reason why his method does not make us into char- 
acters like him. It may then be worth while examining in 
some detail this brief book to see if we can discover, as it is a 
text book, a book for practical working, why it so seldom 
works or perhaps one should say, why it has so many failures. 
There are of course hundreds, perhaps thousands, of spiritual 
guide books and of each of them this same pressing question 
might be asked. But there are very few so simple, so brief, so 
well-known, so commended, so free of all particular pro- 
vincialisms of the ecclesiastical or religious world, so directly 
concerned with the one main issue, so clearly pointing out 
the essentials of method and the desirability of the End as 
this particular book. It is a book which not only every and 
any Christian can understand and put into practice but it is 
one with which most Buddhists and Vedantists could do the 
same. We may then say that it would be hard to find any 
other spiritual guide better suited to act as the subject of this 
pressing inquiry. If we can with its aid and through careful 
study of it understand why spiritual guide books fail to 
bring interested readers to their goal we shall have found 
something which will help us not only to use "The Practice 
of the Presence" but also these other books, and to use them 
so as to produce those essential alterations and mutations in 
our lives which, with these rules, the authors first produced 
in their own. 

The first thing that a careful study of these four conversa- 
tions and fourteen letters discloses is that though the language 
is so simple, often even conventional, yet they contain far 
more specific information than the easy rapid reading sug- 
gests. The second thing arises from considering and ordering 
this information: for, that done, we find that this is not at all 
a beginner's book. Its simplicity of diction, the directness 
with which the process and the End are described, disguise 
from us, until we have worked at it, that the system is simple 
because it is advanced. This is not a spiritual child speaking 
with unreflective simplicity. This is a man at the end of an 

399 &Cptes on ^Brother Lawrence** ^Practice / 

intense, never-remitted struggle of a dedicated life-time, hav- 
ing won to that consummate ease? that master's power to ex- 
temporise in any mode, which comes only to those who, at 
the top and climax of their form, having achieved all partic- 
ular controls, now have such perfect command of expression 
and apprehension that every event becomes precisely that 
opportunity which allows fresh, unexhaustible creativeness 
to be exhibited. This opinion is so contrary to that com- 
monly held by readers of Brother Lawrence that it will prob- 
ably be well to support this analysis not merely by quotations 
from his well-worn words; but, by comparison with other 
such advisers, to show that, though they are considered ad- 
vanced and difficult, and he for babes, the reverse is true. 
The two who closely resemble his approach, but both of 
them scholars and stylists, are St. Albertus Magnus in his 
"De Adherendo Deo," and the anonymous Master who wrote 
"The Cloud of Unknowing." Their books, comparison seems 
to show unmistakably, are complex because they deal with 
an earlier stage of the dedicated life, of spiritual evolution, 
than does the Practice of the Presence: they are showing how 
the masterful simplicity, the apparent spontaneity and easy 
freedom of Lawrence may be attained and must be pur- 

The first and simplest thing to note is the actual age of the 
workers to whom these three books refer. We know the 
"Cloud" was specifically written for a man of twenty-four 
just having completed a novice training and on his choosing 
to adopt the life of a pure contemplative. Albert is looking 
back across his immense life; he was a patriarch and an en- 
cyclopaedist and resolved as a parting gift to leave the actual 
instructions whereby anyone who cares to follow the path 
may find the goal. Lawrence is an old man speaking only and 
wholly of his own experience without reference to earlier 
mystics and even doubting whether other people have so 
found. The second thing is that Lawrence himself shows that 
he was singularly gifted in spiritual character, being con- 
verted at eighteen not by concern for himself but by sheer 
wonder at God's creative power (Plato's "redeeming amaze- 
ment"). This early, favorable, and unrevokcd start did not 
excuse him from most arduous efforts and mortifying experi- 

VEDANTA For The Western World 400 

cnces. He went through the severe discipline of an austere 
Carmelite training but his real novitiate was the four years 
in which, in spite of his manifest simple goodness and in 
spite also of kind and wise encouragement, he remained 
convinced that he must be damned. The Lawrence of twenty- 
four, yes even of forty-four would no doubt, if he could have 
been persuaded to speak, have said things far more wrought 
with effort and checkered with reflections than did he of old 
age. Even in the letters we have a hint of a still-growing free- 
dom and ease. Not only does he tell us in a sort of aside that 
he has had spiritual sufferings and raptures which both were 
keen enough to outweigh any physical pleasures and pains he 
had ever endured, but we can note the last flush of self-con- 
sciousness dying away when in the first letter he implores his 
correspondent not to show to anyone this letter giving his 
method. So deep are his self-misgivings still, that after prefac- 
ing his remarks by telling of the difficulty it gave him to tell, 
even under importunity, anything of his spiritual way, he 
adds that if he thought what he had written should be seen 
by a third party even his wish for his friend's spiritual ad- 
vancement could not persuade him to help. This is strong 
language for one who believed firmly that to miss your way 
in this life was to miss it for good and come to a state of end- 
less misery beside which any earthly misfortune was a baga- 
telle. Nor were the four years of intense self-despair all his 
purgation, though surely that was a heavy initiation and 
should dispel from our minds the picture of a charming old 
innocent who all his life had played alongside his accom- 
panying fancy a God as sunny and as unrealistic as himself. 
He tells us that the four years were followed by a decade dur- 
ing which he was on tenter-hooks and unable to find rest in 
his vision because he could not reconcile such a marvelous 
gracethe constant sense of God's Presencewith the ines- 
capable awareness of his own poor despicable nature. Why 
should he have the supreme comfort and solace when better 
Christians were denied it? This problem of the acute sense 
of the self being rendered agonizing just because the sense of 
God's Presence is perfectly real that the supreme desire and 
its satisfaction is accompanied by supreme bafflement and 
hopelessness, this purgatorial paradox of the spiritual life is 

40 1 ff^otes on ^Brother Lawrence's ^Practice / 

of course dealt with in "The Cloud." There the able author 
has much to say on this stage and how it is to be endured: but 
he does not speak, save as a distant goal, of the resultant con- 
dition and state from which the Lawrence of the letters and 
the conversations speaks. Lawrence, it is true, is sometimes 
considered simple, and even as one comfortably arrested at an 
early and childlike stage of the mystic ascent, because he 
uses language in describing his method which uses, with an 
indifference to detail, anthropomorphic imagery. He declares, 
in the first letter, that he regards God as his Father, as his 
King, as his God: that he carries on conversation with Him 
and goes through an "imaginary" scene of judgment and gen- 
erous forgiveness. Both Albert and "The Cloud's" author 
are careful in this sort of description. They both urge their 
readers to clear their minds of imagery and they give good 
psychological reasons for this procedure in obtaining contact 
with the Eternal. Is not, then, Lawrence more rudimentary 
in this respect? I believe his carelessness or conventionality 
in phraseology and imagery though no doubt all the more 
natural in a man of his intellectual simplicity and his time- 
when the Church was stricter in exacting verbal conformity 
than in the earlier centuries also comes from his spiritual 
maturity and is a sign of his attainment. His achievement is 
so complete that under what seems looseness of phrase he is, 
in fact and as a matter of actual living, combining these an- 
tinomian aspects of ultimate Reality, which all thinkers have 
to face but which few, very few, can blend into a single con- 
cept yielding both the power to face things as they actually 
fall out and also the ability to act, in the face of such experi- 
ence, with dynamic sanity and constant initiative. When 
Lawrence calls God his Father and his King, his God and his 
judge, he meant as a fact of conduct that he could both love 
the supreme Reality and yet also face the realization that such 
Reality could permit him to be tortured and destroyed. The 
advanced theological thought of India calls this the confront- 
ing of the soul with God as Creator, Sustainer, and Destroyer. 
It also with intellectual subtlety indicates how sanity is to 
be persevered in and indeed creativeness enhanced by such 
a revelation, and its solution is Lawrence's: to persevere in 
facing the fact not with stoical despair but with sublime self- 

VEDANTA For The Western World 402 

forgetfulness. Then, as Lawrence tells and the Gita proph- 
esies, suddenly what has seemed a hideous paradox is in a 
flash reconciled as a supreme revelation. Under the focal 
strain, under the blinding jet of the oxygen flame of the 
divine love and the acetylene blaze of the divine reality the 
one seeking the sinner: the other hopelessly desired, incom- 
parably self-sufficient and unattainable under this fusing 
heat the ego melts, for the only thing which burns in hell is 
self and the individual by perishing and in the act of volun- 
tary immolation knows himself to be God. Without any 
metaphysical aid Lawrence by a prodigious love, knew that 
God was Love when He destroyed, and, by that acceptance, 
what was destroyed was his separationintellectual and 
moral from God and God became for him the never-inter- 
mitted Presence. Lawrence was possessed because Nicholas 
Hermann of Lorraine had been annihilated. He tells us of 
this possession in some detail so we can have no doubt about 
it. The years when as he says he had to work constantly to 
keep the sense of the Presence may, it seems, most probably 
be correlated with the four years of purgation. There is a 
large consensus of spiritual opinion both in the East and the 
West that the period of purgation usually takes from three 
to four years, during which unremitting and often exhaust- 
ing and almost hopeless effort is required, and also that dur- 
ing that time the soul must desire God ceaselessly and it will 
be battered between the two rocks, the rock of despair which 
echoes with the cries "You will never find Him: He will 
never reveal Himself and the rock of despair which counter- 
cries ' 'There He is and now do you, hopeless flotsam of the 
seas, think you are going to climb out of the wave troughs up 
and beyond the unattainable stars?" Then the habit becomes 
fixed, the weary toiling to raise water from the deep well to 
use Teresa's simile is changed, because now the well has 
become an overflowing fountain. Lawrence was possessed by 
the spirit he had dared to go on seeking when he was sure it 
had damned him. He had not waited. He had thrown all that 
could burn into hell and as the Divine is all save that which 
is able to say I am I, when the I was gone Lawrence was filled 
for good and all with God. 

Besides also telling us of several stages in his spiritual evo- 

4 3 Spates on *Br other Lawrence's Practice / 

lution, stages which correspond with that scala perfectionis 
which the systematizing mystics have outlined, Lawrence also 
refers to his studies in such literature. In the first letter he 
notes that he began his intense search to attain union with 
Reality by reading "many books" on "different methods of 
going to God and divers practices of the spiritual life." No 
doubt these did not come his way when he was a foot soldier 
or while he was breaking crockery in the Treasurer's house 
as footman. We can assume he was given such works to study 
as a Carmelite novice and we may also feel fairly certain that 
with the works came adequate verbal instruction. We know 
from Br^mond (Sentiment Religieux en France) that the 
Carmelites had only that decade been introduced into Paris 
and that their sponsors were men and women of the most 
remarkable and indeed advanced religious life. Brother Law- 
rence's instructors must themselves have been saintly men 
anxious to advance and help others advance in spirituality. 
This fact probably also accounts for the freedom to follow 
his bent, permitted him when he was seeking, and the 
wide respect shown him when it was recognized that he 
had found. An unlettered lay brother, a domestic servant of 
a poor monastery who can say to the inspecting Vicar Gen- 
eral of one of the most powerful Cardinals that the great 
visitor could only come and see him if the Vicar General's 
one desire was sincerely to serve God, such a cookman, it is 
clear, is a recognized authority in the aliment of the soul. It 
was then, after having studied and been instructed, that 
Lawrence perfected his own simple, masterly, . exacting 
method. Technically it is the attainment of uninterrupted 
monodeism. He tells us that he raised the threshold of at- 
tention until he could maintain it constantly at the same 
height which devout worship at the Sacrament keeps, for that 
time, the faithful sacramentalist. He adds the illuminative 
particular that the rush and noise of the kitchen when at full 
tide did not lower in any degree this intensity of other aware- 
ness. Nor, he makes it clear, was the concentration attained 
by a simple rudimentary disassociation through routine, mus- 
cular automatism. He could, he says, be continually asked 
for various things, his mental attention could be constantly 
summoned by practical demands and could give the right 

VEDANTA For The Western World 404 

responses. Nor, again, was this state, the combination of 
surface practical awareness and deep attention fixed con- 
tinually on God, dependent for its right working on familiar 
surroundings and customary stimuli. When he was sent on 
journeys to buy wine, though he dreaded the discomforts of 
travelbeing crippled he found his sense of the Eternal un- 
disturbed. It is worth noting all he tells us of this state for, 
because of its simplicity, its profundity may escape us: be- 
cause of its achieved facility we may fail to realize the extraor- 
dinariness of the condition. He remarks in one place that 
the business which he had to effect went well, as he had com- 
mended himself and it to God, for he found at the conclusion 
that it had all been managed as it should, though and this is 
the phrase worth reflection he himself recalled no partic- 
ulars as to how it had been done. From these passages it is 
hard to escape the conclusion that this remarkable proficient 
of the will had so mastered his attention and set it upon the 
one object of its unceasing desire that he had produced 
a peculiar and most effective dissociation. By this means he 
was rid of all anxiety and strain, all haste and all fatigue. The 
attention he gave to the task which he was offering momen- 
tarily to God, was that quality of intense attention which 
can only be compared with that attention which the hypnotic 
subject gives to anything to which his controller tells him to 
attend. Such attention is so intense that it is without memory 
or foreboding, as much without boredom as it is free of pos- 
sessive adhesion, for the ego, with its vibrant self-involve- 
ment, continually asking "Do I like: do I dislike this?" is 
absent. But whereas the hypnotized subject is dependent on 
the will of his controller and on that, even, to a limited 
degree, Lawrence was dependent on a will which he felt to 
be both infinitely powerful and kind. Nor, though this con- 
trol was transcendent, did Lawrence feel it to be alien. He 
tells us he often felt as though God were in him and had he 
belonged to a spiritually more outspoken age, no doubt he 
would have said precisely that, feeling that such a phrase 
alone was adequate to describe in one term the abolition of 
his own will and the simultaneous discovery that he was 
more alive, more conscious, more tirelessly volitional, and 
full of initiative, response, and uncalculated effectiveness 

45 fffytes on ^Brother Lawrence's ^Practice / 

than ever he had been when he was concerned, careful, scru- 
pulous, and self-conscious. 

This condition, it is obvious, is very advanced. He who 
has it, has already entered Eternity, for time is gone. Time 
is a tension between some regret for the past and apprehen- 
sion for the future, time is a state of mind created by the 
ego's characteristics, greed and fear. Albertus Magnus in his 
precise scholarly instruction makes this clear. He tells the 
student as "a sure path to Bliss" that state of liberation as 
far beyond pleasure as it is above pain to "mount up into 
the dark" or limit "of the mind," there to accustom himself 
to "stand fast in the Lord within you" when, after some 
practice "in recollecting the emotions and fixing them 
above," he will find that he has entered the Eternal Now. 
Brother Lawrence realized that he had entered Eternity 
while still in the body. He says, as clearly as Eckhart, the 
great thinker of mysticism, had said earlier, that "I now see 
God in such a manner as might make me sometimes say I 
believe no more but I see. In short I am assured beyond 
all doubt that my soul has been with God above these thirty 
years." The actual step which brings about this union ends 
time and passes the soul into Eternity. Lawrence himself de- 
scribes it in a single sentence which for its depth might come 
from Plotinus. It is a classic description of the act of creative 
will, the mutation of consciousness. Having said his sole ob- 
jective had become one thing "nothing but how to become 
wholly God's" he strikes to the heart in the phrase "This 
made me resolve to give the all for the All." Having seen 
that the One must be attained by yielding and exchanging 
for the One the manifold, he let the many go that he might 
be seized of the One. He succeeded in acting on Eckhart's 
great cry of prayer "O Lord God we beseech Thee to help 
us escape from the life which is divided into the life which 
is united." Only those who have completely misapprehended 
the "Practice of the Presence" can, in face of such a phrase, 
continue to think of Lawrence's method as a gentle, senti- 
mental reverie, a method whereby a wandering-minded monk 
filled in with a theological daydream the longeurs of the 
conventual day. So much for Lawrence's own development 
and systematization, for the deeply cut steps he hewed to 

VEDANTA For The Western World '406 

scale the purgatorial mountain and the firm platform he 
won on its lofty summit. His letters illustrate in still further 
detail how conscious and defined he had made his specific 
trail, how little he left to happy chance, how well he remem- 
bered and understood the intense effort needed at the start 
and for a long while, and how shrewd and calculating he 
was what a sound practical psychologist in judging every 
difficulty and in suggesting ingenious and subtle ways of 
negotiating successive obstacles. There is no suggestion that 
he imagined any but proficients would find the way anything 
but a constant remedying of faults, repairing of slips and mis- 
takes and indefatigable returning to the climb after bruise, 
stumble and fall in fact a life of continual restarting after 
check and arrest. He advises beginners not to trust the stream 
of their feeling: on the contrary he specifically tells them "to 
do themselves violence" in setting themselves at this task of 
remembering God when it will actually seem "repugnant" 
there will be a distinct emotional disgust for the work and, 
alternately it will seem "time lost" the whole task will seem 
an illusion, a silly bore. Then the beginner is to tie himself 
to the task as a steersman lashes himself to the wheel when 
facing contrary seas. He is to bind himself by the express 
resolve that, whether he makes harbor or no, the ship, even 
if it sink, shall be found facing toward port. He is to resolve 
till death to hold his course. Then when the will is set that 
naked intent of the will that blind beholding which is the 
whole teaching of the "Cloud" then, with that, sure and 
based, can come a number of subtle devices and advices. 
Once the will is really purified in the fire of love and is true 
metal \vithout alloy it can be tempered. There is a finer, 
surer strength than rigidity and that is suppleness. To revert 
to voyaging similes: the ship must hold its course, but it 
must also know, if it is to climb the oncoming waves, how to 
rise and swing to them. The forces which meet him who 
would move ahead along an intentional progress are waves 
as surely as the sea's. There must be give and then go. No 
one can advance unremittingly until they are reborn and 
leave the sea for the air. The beginner will find the true cri- 
terion of his strength or rather of the strength given him 
not in swift progress which almost inevitably would lead to 

407 fffyte* on ^Brother Lawrence** 'Practice / 

pride but in his humble power of immediate recovery. 
True, a perfect ship keeps a wonderfully steady keel in all 
weathers but for a middlingly-built craft its safety lies in its 
power to roll to the waves: the thoroughly dangerous boat is 
that which will not roll at all. Suddenly hit by a heavy sea it 
reels clean over, never recovers and founders at one plunge. 
So are the rigid, self-assured, self-upheld stoics. So Lawrence 
warns strongly against all rolling in the wave trough of re- 
morse. As Fcnelon, the holy Marquis, was pointing out at 
the same time as this holy scullion, remorse and disgust at 
the self may be not repentance at all but actually wounded 
self-importance, mortified, not at having fallen from God 
but in being lowered in its own self-esteem. As soon as the 
dip is over the ship must rise. The ship will labor and 
stagger, rock and sway as we try to keep its masthead steady 
on the pilot star. The skilled steersman with ready hold does 
not expect absolute rigidity or throw up his hands when 
time and again the ship gives and reels: indefatigably he 
brings her head back again to the course. And as he ceases 
to worry and wrench at the helm, not only does his strength 
hold; the ship also reels less. Lawrence also notes for his be- 
ginners how much the actual impact of the wave may be 
modified by foresight. That is our peculiar power of mind 
which gives mind its one but, if employed, decisive suprem- 
acy over emotion. We can see the wave bearing down on us 
and we can handle our craft so that she takes the flood skil- 
fully with her prow well set to it. Lawrence warns that the 
disturbances in prayer bear a close relation to the thought 
indulged in when out of prayer. And here we drop the simile 
of boat, steersman, and waves for all are one we are ocean 
as well as ship and mariner and so we can decide if the sea is 
to be rough it will be as rough as we care to stir it. We stir 
it with our constant daily preoccupation with other drives 
and urges, quite other than the urge to reach and abide in 
the unchanging eternal dynamic coordinative calm of the 
Presence and Peace of God. 


on brother Lawrences 
^Practice of the ^Presence ofCjodII 


LAWRENCE HAD RIGHT to think his system the simplest, best, 
most thorough and swiftest. Extend the Kingdom of inten- 
tion and control until there is no province, no quarter of 
an hour, in which its writ does not run. Then there will be 
no backwoods where outlaws may gather to attack and pester 
the camp and the city. Clean out every focus of infection, 
leave no pocket for flies to breed on its garbage of worry and 
private concern, the house of the Soul will not need all this 
screening and spraying nor its householder always be dash- 
ing from his lens and retort to swot the intruding insects. 
No more than flies can be present if breeding grounds are 
absent can distracting thoughts, still less worry, disturb the 
mind which has no concern but God. The Eternal Light 
sterilizes all these pests. 

Again we must remind ourselves that Lawrence did not 
think this course anything but fatiguing for beginners. If we 
are seeking immediate comfort we shall not clean the gar- 
bage pit nor drain the puddles. Nearly all of us are seeking 
something short of the Eternal dynamic peace: we are, all 
save the Saints, beachcombers in soul: though we should 
feel disgust if we beachcombed in the flesh. Lawrence's 
recommendation that we should all the time be conscious, 
or strive to be, every minute, is a short sharp cure. Sharp 
because we rre alternating creatures; short, because if we 
stick to it and succeed in switching over into continuous, 
intentional consciousnessthe practice of the Presence we 
have done at a stroke and for good what anyhow we must 
sooner or later do, what is easier done now than when, as 
must be at any later time, there must be more to undo, and 


409 fr(ptes on Brother Lawrence's Practice // 

what, if we stop and start again, we shall take many bites at 
the one cherry. Our many false starts will amount to a mile- 
age equal to the mileage of the actual crossing if we went 
ahead and crossed straight away. Lawrence is too good a 
psychologist, has too much of actual spiritual experience to 
expect that one resolve, however keen, will see us through 
and over. He has warned us of the waves, of the opposing 
tides we stir up by our forward thrust. He does not expect 
us to make an unruffled drive and dive to our goal but he 
does expect and plan for an ever quicker recovery after each 
deflection, until what began as a zigzag advance, with paus- 
ing and panting at each hooking and crooking, shows less 
and less fluctuation, ripples forward with a quicker, smoother, 
straighter flow, till at last, like a streak and a flash, it strikes 
straight for its goal. Nothing distracts or delays it now. To 
change the simile, the perforations in the band of time be- 
come incessant, until, instead of a series of punctures, a con- 
tinuous aperture is pierced through the Temporal into the 
Eternal. Then the Soul has attained: the fog and web of the 
Temporal never has a chance to form. The Light shines un- 
interruptedly. The hard-working and often fatigued and 
flustered servant is raised, hears the almost-too-good-to-be- 
true summons, "Friend, come up higher." He finds himself 
in the light, by the source and fount of all energy. Striving 
is over: the rough water left. With a prodigy of effort, beat- 
ing and being beaten by waves and water, the swan strikes 
and batters itself along the sea surface. But suddenly the 
pounding pinions no longer buffet the stinging water. They 
strike, hold and mount upon the air and in a moment the 
agony is over, the huge bird is free in its element, the waves 
sink down impotently under, the last drops sweep from its 
feathers, falling to the sea, whose sound even now is waning 
as the wind currents bear the exultant creature racing up- 
ward into the sky. Yes, there are helpful wind currents to 
step us up from the sea- surface. Lawrence warns us of this 
also. Be always ready, be alert to mount, but know also that 
you do not mount solely by that act of will. "You must raise 
your sail/' said Ramakrishna. "The wind of Grace will fill 
it." Assuredly it will, but we have to learn patience. We must 
remember we have all of us missed many a tide, many a 

VEDANTA For The Western World 410 

favorable wind. We cannot expect everything to be ready 
the moment we decide, at long last, that we are. But the wait- 
ing, too, has its purpose. There are no accidents in the spir- 
itual life. The waiting shows us whether we are in earnest. 
We are, as a matter of fact, never kept waiting long: never as 
long as we ourselves have delayed. Lawrence, then, warns 
against that beginner's fever which would be immediately 
at its goal and is peremptory in its demand for instantaneous 
enlightenment. He uses the interesting phrase that the young 
hot-head he was indirectly counselling was wishing to go 
"faster than Grace," The wir.e gardener works indefati- 
gably: he knows that though he must wait on Nature's time 
for fruits, yet there is always something he can be doing to 
help and that on the incessancy of his labor will depend, 
when the fruits appear, their abundance and their quality. 
Such then was Brother Lawrence and such his method. As 
for its results on him we may say that it raised him past all 
the conflict of purgation to the effortless achievement and 
unvarying imperturbable happiness which is an authentic 
manifestation of the Eternal Peace. Circumstances of time 
and place; conditions of body; limitations of mind; the faults 
of the particular church to which he belonged; of the social 
system in which he lived; the distresses and diseases of an 
old crippled body ill-tended; the inadequacy of an intelli- 
gence long uneducated, of moderate endowment at best and 
given in the end but little actual instruction: all these handi- 
caps were severe and might have proved arresting. With his 
single-hearted devotion toward God, to God in His inex- 
pressible perfection, with his magnificent integrity of will 
Lawrence surmounted all. Through a system heavily en- 
crusted and opalescent with dogma, with rigid and elaborate 
ordering, ritual and particularized symbolism, he made the 
pure eternal light shine as purely and certainly as intensely 
as any Sufi or Quaker. In a society where religion had been 
amalgamated into the State so that when the State collapsed 
his Church was completely involved in the ruin, he not only 
kept the witness of the Spirit alive in his heart: the Paraclete 
shone so brightly in this temple cleaned of all but the Su- 
preme Presence that the worldly wise, as wearily awake to 
the hysteria of sham religion as they were to the simpler 

4 1 1 y^otes on brother Lawrence's Tract ice // 

more ruthless hypocrisy of ecclesiastical careerism neverthe- 
less came to talk with and be roused from their sophisticated 
despair by this man, who by the simple audacity of simply 
"giving the all for the All" had found what they with all their 
endowments had missed. These shrewd observers, used to 
watching as well as listening, these inspectors well equipped 
with critical power to expose even the eloquent pretentious- 
ness of a Pascal (the lovely, seemingly sincere master style 
and the queer life lived behind it), these official advisers of 
Government, investigating the strange powers of defiant 
Jansenism and finding, as they suspected and half wished to 
find, behind the power of the appeal, the pride of the self 
will, back of the inflexible martyr the persecuting bigot, 
recessive to the wilful fidelity to a narrow vision an implac- 
able uncharitability: such observers came to study Lawrence. 
The Jesuits were in the saddle managing the King and his 
gross sins in order, "A.M. D.G.," to manage the State. They 
had denounced the Quietists and imposed a worship which 
was filled with the images the mystic believes to prove ob- 
stacles. They had driven out the gentle saintly F^nelon ac- 
cusing him of Quietism. Had Lawrence been even at Fene- 
lon's level he might have been crushed. After all, he was no 
Marquis, stylist, scholar, tutor of the heir to the throne, and 
he could have been silenced by the mere hint of authoritative 
disapproval. Less exertion, less reflection, than we take to 
brush aside an ant would have swept him into oblivion. For 
not only was he personally of complete insignificance, a lay 
brother of a poor house, he was also of complete humbleness 
and obedience possibly unattainable by one who has merited 
the doom to be born to a marquisate and, even when he 
chooses the church, to preach with eulogized eloquence; to 
manage affairs and men of affairs with mastery; to conduct 
a life of shining spectacular virtue against the terribly effec- 
tive background of a court clever, pretentious and squalid. 
Fnelon banished banished to his archbishopric banished 
from such a court to his rightful flock which he was vowed 
to feed spiritually and who did (however frugally he ate) 
actually feed him Fnelon submitted with dignity, with 
true grace but not with cheerfulness. True he was leaving 
his beloved pupil whom he had tamed from savagery and 

FED ANT A For The Western World 412 

trained to affection, a pupil dear to himself as a spiritual son 
and precious to himself as a loyal son of France, for this 
child whom he had broken and reset was it seemed to be 
France's sole master. But Lawrence, to whom the Presence of 
God made for him a light in which all and any conditions 
were radiant with God's will, love and marvelous design, 
Lawrence surely would not have written from the galleys, 
even still less from the archepiscopal palace of Cambrai, "I am 
enduring a dry and bitter peace/* This is not to underrate 
the noble Archbishop: it is to elevate or show the true sta- 
tion of the ex-cook. 

Lawrence was not silenced. That is the fact, more impor- 
tant than any speculation, however certain, as to how his 
radiance would have shone unabated had he been exiled, 
Lawrence might have been accused, when, passions were run- 
ning high, of certain expressed carelessness about forms when 
forms were again being advocated as essential by the domi- 
nant party and that party, with the despot behind them, was 
striking successfully at figures great in rank and station, 
worthily high in prestige and consummate in expression and 
defense. Lawrence is inspected it was the time when anyone 
of low rank in the Church and showing influence had to be 
inspected. Surely it may be doubted whether the first visit 
of the Vicar General of the Cardinal de Noailles was made 
solely that the busy, and probably harassed, official might talk 
about his own soul. Yet it is certainly clear that this hard- 
working man, at work which was probably hardening, this 
filterer of claims for preferment, this sanitary inspector of 
moral scandals, this server of tables none too clean besieged 
by the hungry, whose hunger had made them none too scru- 
pulous, still found time to come once and again to get spir- 
itual food for himself from the simpleton whom he in- 
spected: he found time to write out for others what he had 
found, to enter that passage about his being forbidden to 
come again unless he would give up his life to God, and to 
urge on the Cardinal his master the publication of this pure 
and lofty Gospel, a request which was granted. The point 
disclosed here seems important. Recall that at that precise 
moment Lawrence's teaching could so easily, almost inevi- 
tably have been regarded as inexpedient. The Church, espe- 

4 l 3 y^otes on brother Laivrence's Practice // 

cially in France, had decided this was of all times the least 
auspicious in which to teach the laying aside of systems and 
the Quakerly doctrine that as all life is sacramental picking 
up a straw may and should be done as much for the love of 
God and in the clear conviction of His Presence as kneeling 
in adoration before the sacrament. This was what Lawrence 
taught and the teaching, advanced though it is, easily mis- 
understood as it certainly can be, was not only approved but 
promulgated by the ultra-cautious authorities, hardened with 
suspicion and hypersensitively nervous over any latitude or 
tolerance. Is there not in the fact a further and perhaps most 
important piece of evidence as to the spiritual height Law- 
rence had attained? Those who spoke with him noted not 
only his words, they were held by his appearance. Like all 
those few who have become the constant friends of God, he 
radiated, without the need of expression, the triple charisma, 
the love, joy and peace which fills those natures who have 
lost their egos. They do not have to think and say and act; 
they are, and their still silences bless us more than their 
arguments, their eloquence or their good deeds. Lawrence's 
words and reasoning could well have been misapprehended 
and suppressed. They were given a currency which would 
have astonished him, not by sectarians anxious by any seces- 
sion to liberate the Spirit, when free, pure worship seemed 
deliberately attacked, but by the highest church authorities, 
men charged to err on the side of caution and repression. 
That denouement seems to have a moral for us today. It is 
clear that precisely the same words as Lawrence used would 
be used by a Quaker, by any devout schismatic or heretic. 
The book's success as wide as Christendom has established 
that. The words themselves therefore would not have assured 
themselves a welcome: on the contrary we should expect 
them to have been repressed kindly, maybe, but firmly. What 
made their issue seem safe and natural was Lawrence himself, 
or, to be precise, his lack of self. Something of an authenticity 
both so awe-inspiring and so gentle, irresistible in the dread 
strength of its open tenderness and unsuspecting love came 
out from the old man that those in his presence knew that 
he was only an open door. Through the incessant beauty of 
his soul shone the awful meekness of the Paraclete. To doubt 

VEDANTA For The Western World 414 

that his words could do harm, to feel suspicion that such a 
spirit might be unsafe and endanger social security or ecclesias- 
tical arrangements, such doubts and suspicions, in a presence 
instant with the authenticity of the Eternal, filled the enquirer 
with shame. He knew, below all argument of caution and 
reasons of State and Church, that nothing but good can flow 
from the Source of Good. 

The question must rise in our minds when we consider 
this man, his peculiar time of anxious, authoritative repres- 
sion and his letters and conversations both so free and inno- 
cent of the passports of detailed dogmatic compliance, so 
emphatic that one thing alone matters above sins and sacra- 
ments, the constant communion with God the question 
must be asked, "How often have the martyrs, by failing in 
profound incessant charity for those who opposed them, in 
their desire to throw at their persecutor's feet the challenge 
of their lives, failed to see that they were themselves debar- 
ring the spread of their message?" "The blood of the mar- 
tyrs is the Seed of the Church." What Church? Certainly 
the implicit violence and hostility of not a few such witnesses 
were seed from which sprang a church as ruthlessly cruel in 
persecution as ever its persecutors. The message of the Ser- 
mon on the Mount was never carried by such martyrs. Today 
the world is in a desperate pass. Men of great courage and 
devotion and with a great cause to serve are resolved that 
the other side must be crushed beyond recovery and they 
themselves are ready to die and wreck the world if only their 
enemy may be totally destroyed. Each side maintains that 
there is not the slightest use expecting any decent or lasting 
settlement as long as the other is free to live. The enemy is 
one who is incapable of understanding the right. We have to 
go back to the wars of religion to find such a fatal implac- 
ability. And it is there, on the shore of that deadly sea of the 
mutual blind hatred of two intense devoted convictions, of 
the death duel of the champions of the Spirit of Freedom and 
the Spirit of Authority, that we find Brother Lawrence. He 
spoke, in the camp of Authority, for freedom and because of 
the love he felt for men, through the love he had won to and 
from God, the authoritarians listened and published his mes- 
sage. He succeeded in speaking of real religious liberty, that 

4 1 5 &(otes on brother Lawrence's Practice // 

incessant service which is the only perfect freedom, to those 
obsessed with the need of order, because he never felt these 
men to be at heart different from himself. He knew that we 
all need God. That is our one peremptory overwhelming 
need but in spite of our awful thirst we cannot stoop and 
drink because we are masked in our prejudices and prides. 
Because he spoke with absolute simplicity and with living 
proof of what he had found, he knew he had nothing to fear 
from men whose need was as great as his. However fanatical, 
when we are dying of thirst we do not strike or silence one 
whom we see is coming to lead us to a well from which he 
has drunk and lived. His examiners, therefore, also knew 
they had nothing to fear from him. That is the one founda- 
tion of all peace-making: the assurance that from this man, 
at least, I have nothing to fear. Suspicion and its dim father, 
recoiling caution, could find no purchase in this man's inno- 
cent humility. Because, in a deeper sense than we say it, Law- 
rence never stood in his own light. In the light which 
streamed over him he strove to be perfectly transparent. He 
gave no personal or temporal tinge to his profoundly simple 
message. For that reason his anxious authorities passed it and 
published it and precisely for that reason those who have 
most loved God and cared least for anything else, even for 
the forms in which men have spoken of God, these saints of 
every race and sect, as well as those particular executives of 
his day, have loved and prized his words. 

Here is a true bridge-builder, a pontifex maximus, span- 
ning the gulf between the devotees of freedom and those of 
authority and his power to span and embrace and hold these 
two extremes, who else must destroy each other, is not in- 
genuity of compromising phrase or eloquence or appeal to 
reason. No, it is that gigantic gentleness, that irresistible 
authenticity which sees in all the same vast universal need 
it has felt in itself, that sees that need can only be satisfied by 
the same simple solution. Because Lawrence really did give 
the all for the All he received back from the All, all his 
fellows, now seen as part of that All and only needing to 
recognize their part in that All, by giving all themselves to it, 
to become one with the All. This and this only is the faith 
which overcomes the world, for it reunites all mankind by 

VEDANTA For The Western World 416 

making it one communion with the Eternal. Those only, but 
they infallibly, who are so filled with the Presence of God 
may and must draw all men, none of whom they can think of 
as alien, into that incessantly practised communion. This is 
Lawrence's particular message to our day and hour be filled 
until you are nothing but the All and then you will discover 
that because He is indeed the All you do indeed embrace 
and draw out of the ignorance and illusion of separateness 
every other human soul. For there can be no boundaries, no 
limitations, no exclusions toward any. However much any 
may feel that they are separate, the higher Knowledge, the 
true gnosis of charity won in the Presence of God, knows 
that this is illusion which must vanish when it meets the 
challenge of Truth in Love. This gnosis also knows that 
God's presence waits to descend fully to recreate man, until 
the last man shall consent to wish for that presence and, so 
attaining the power to see it in his neighbor, will be united 
with God in man. Finally the gnosis in the power of its end- 
less life knows that, as each individual becomes aware of his 
real nature in God, his enlightenment gives him the power 
to kindle the same illumination in others. 

Self- Surrender 


I WILL BEGIN by quoting two famous passages from the Mun- 
daka Upanishad: "Like two birds of beautiful golden plum- 
ageinseparable companions the individual self and the 
immortal Atman are perched on the branches of the self- 
same tree. The former tastes the sweet and bitter fruits of 
the tree. The latter remains motionless, calmly watching/' 

"The individual self, deluded by forgetfulness of its iden- 
tity with the Divine Atman, grieves, bewildered by its own 
helplessness. When it recognizes the Lord who alone is 
worthy of our worship as its own Atman, and beholds its 
own glory, it becomes free from all grief." 

These are revealed truths. They have been directly and 
immediately experienced by the seers and sages, within the 
depths of their own souls. Such truths are, of course, uni- 
versal; and can be realized by every one of us who is ready 
to make the effort to do so. 

The fable of the two birds is intended to teach us the 
truth about Man's real and apparent nature. It teaches that 
Man suffers only because he is ignorant of his true Being. 
God t5. He is the absolute Reality, "ever-present in the hearts 
of all/' He is the blissful Atman which sits, calmly watching 
the restlessness of its companion. And the fable goes on to 
tell us that, at last, the two birds merge into one. The Atman 
is all that exists. 

Therefore, our suffering has no real cause, no necessity. 
This external life, this tasting of the sweet and bitter fruits 
of the tree of experience, is a dream, from which, at any 
moment, we may awake. Sometimes our dream is pleasant, 
sometimes unpleasant. There are philosophers who tell us 
that the unpleasant and evil things of Life are an illusion, 
and that only the pleasant and good things are real. But this 


FED ANT A For The Western World 418 

cannot be true. Pleasure and pain, good and evil, belong 
inseparably together they are what Vedanta calls "the pairs 
of opposites." They are like the two sides of a coin. Their 
nature cannot differ. Either both are real or both are unreal. 

Theologians have argued for centuries over the problem 
of Evil. Why does this ignorance exist? Why is Man unaware 
of his Divine Nature? But this question could only be an- 
swered by those who have transcended our human conscious* 
ness, with its belief in good and evil. Why do we dream? We 
can only find the answer to that problem after we have 
awakened. The seers who have attained transcendental con- 
scioulness tell us that the so-called Problem of Evil is no 
problem at all, because Evil does not exist and has never 
existed. But for us who still live in the consciousness of the 
relative world, the problem of how our ignorance arose is 
merely academic. We need only to ask how we shall remove 
our ignorance. 

What is the nature of this ignorance? It resides in our 
sense of ego, our belief that we are individual beings. The 
ego veils our eyes, as it were, and causes us to dwell in 
ignorance. Man is the Atman, the Spirit. He has a mind, 
senses and a body. When he forgets that he is the Atman, 
and identifies himself with body, mind and senses, then the 
sense of ego originates. With the birth of this ego-sense, the 
transcendental nature is forgotten. Man lives on the sense- 
plane and becomes subject to the law of Karma and rebirth. 

In our ignorance, we are no longer aware of the Lord 
within us, and yet, nevertheless, because our true nature is 
divine, we feel a lack, an emptiness. We want to find some- 
thing, although we do not know exactly what it is. We want 
some kind of happiness which will be lasting. And so desire 
rises in us, a craving for everything which seems to promise 
happiness and seems pleasant; a shrinking back from every- 
thing which seems unpleasant. Behind all our desires even 
the very lowest and basest there is the urge to find real, un- 
alloyed happiness and freedom, to find immortality. This 
strong craving, which does not know what is its real object, 
involves us in all sorts of action. We try everything, in order 
to find what it is that we are seeking. And our actions, in 
their turn, involve us in the limitations and bondages of 

4*9 Self-Surrender 

Karma: as we sow, we reap. We begin to taste the fruits of 
the tree of experience. We wish to taste only th^ sweet fruits, 
but this is impossible, for the bitter fruit grows on the same 
tree, and we cannot have the one without the other. 

Out of this attachment to what is pleasant and this aver- 
sion to what is unpleasant there grows a clinging to life. The 
ego clings to its ego-life, its sense of individuality: it does not 
want to die. Yet this "life" which the ego clings to is really 
death, because it is separation from our true nature, from 
God. That is why Jesus said: "He who loves this life shall 
lose it" 

To find real life, the life of our true nature, we must tran- 
scend the ego. We shall never know happiness until we 
realize Brahman, the Ground, in which we are rooted. The 
ego is the only barrier to this knowledge. Sri Ramakrishna 
used to say that when the ego dies all troubles cease. And 
Jesus tells us: "Except a man be born again, lie cannot 
enter the Kingdom of God/' This rebirth, this birth in spirit, 
is the death of the ego. The Hindus have a saying: "Die 
while living." Die the death of the ego and be reborn spir- 
itually, even in this life. 

So the problem of all spiritual life, no matter whether you 
are a Christian, a Buddhist or a Hindu, simply amounts to 
this: How can I kill the ego? And the answer given by every 
one of these religions is the same: Surrender yourself. Give 
yourself up to God, completely and wholeheartedly. Love 
God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind. 
Become absorbed, and forget yourself in the consciousness 
of God. The ego is the only obstacle to God-consciousness. 
The great yogi, Patanjali, compares it to the bank of a reser- 
voir. You want to irrigate your fields. In the reservoir there 
is plenty of waterthe living water of the Atman. All you 
have to do is to break down the bank, and the water will 
flow over the fields. Each one of us has that reservoir inside 
him, ready to flood his life with joy, wisdom and immor- 
tality, if only he will break down the ego, the barrier. 

It sounds so simple: to love God, to surrender ourselves 
to Him, to kill this ego. But it is the hardest thing one can 
possibly do. It involves great spiritual disciplines; and the 
practice of these disciplines with the utmost patience and 

VEDANTA For The Western World 420 

perseverance. The mind is always straining to go outward, 
toward everything that seems pleasant in the external world. 
And the ego reasserts itself perpetually. However we may 
try to banish it, it keeps reappearing, as it were, in different 
disguises. So we have to keep on trying. 

What are these disciplines we have to practice? They are 
discrimination and dispassion. We have to discriminate, per- 
petually, throughout our lives, between what is real and 
what is unreal. God, the infinite, the unchanging, is the only 
reality. Everything else, all these appearances and forms of 
the external world, are unreal. As you practice this discrimi- 
nation, you become convinced that God is, that He really 
exists. And, further, you begin to realize that, if there is a 
God, He must be attainable. Most -people think that they 
believe in God, and there it ends. They imagine that mere 
belief in God is enough. It is sufficient to be what they call 
"a God-fearing man." But the great spiritual teachers have 
told us that religion means something far more than mere 
faith, a mere opinion that God exists. You have to believe 
that God is actually attainable. Otherwise, the practice of dis- 
passion and discrimination does not mean anything at all. 
Simply by saying that we believe in God we cannot free our- 
selves from these experiences of life and death, pleasure and 
pain. These are the direct, immediate experiences of the 
dream which we call life. We have to wake from this dream, 
and know the Reality, which is also a direct, immediate ex- 
perience. We have to break this dream while living on earth. 
We have to die while living, in order to enter the Kingdom 
of God. The proof of God's existence is not to be found in 
theological arguments, or even in the revealed scriptures. 
Yes, Jesus saw God; Ramakrishna saw God; but that is no 
proof for us. We must see God for ourselves: that is the only 
real proof. 

Again, the practice of dispassion and discrimination does 
not mean that we are to give up the activities of life. It does 
not mean running away from the world. It is the mind which 
has to be trained. We have to cultivate yearning for God. We 
have to train our minds in such a way that we are surrender- 
ing our ego to God, every moment of our life. 

How shall we cultivate this yearning, this love for God? It 

42 1 Self -Surrender 

cannot be done simply by sitting down, closing our eyes and 
fixing our hearts on God. That is only possible at a very 
advanced stage. What shall be our method of training? The 
Gita teaches Karma Yoga. In Karma Yoga we learn to sur- 
render ourselves to God through our actions, through every 
breath we breathe. There are different ways of doing this. 
For instance, you can regard yourself simply as a machine. 
Who is the operator? The Atman within you. You have to 
try to forget the ego: for a machine has no will of its own. Or 
you can think of the fable of the two birds. You are the 
Atman, motionless, actionless, calmly observing. The senses 
move amongst the sense-objects, but you remain free from 
all action. You are actionless in the midst of action. Or again, 
you can make every action into a sort of ritual, an offering to 
God, As Sri Krishna says to Arjuna, in the Gita: 

"Whatever your action, 
Food or worship; 
Whatever the gift 
That you give to another; 
Whatever you vow 
To the work of the Spirit; 
O son of Kunti, 
Lay these also 
As offerings before me." 

And he continues: "Thus you will free yourself from both 
the good and the evil effects of your actions. Offer up every- 
thing to me. If your heart is united with me, you will be set 
free from Karma even in this life, and come to me at the 

When you fall in love with someone, your mind dwells on 
that person, no matter what you may be doing, all day long. 
That is how we should love God. Every day, we must fall in 
love with Him afresh, in a new way. Human love wears out 
and ceases; but love of God grows. You do not get tired of it. 
It is always a new thing. It gains in intensity. To cultivate 
this love, we must try to be conscious of God continually; 
and this is only possible if we practice regular meditation. 
Without meditation, Karma Yoga is impracticable. Just by 

VEDANTA For The Western World 422 

being a good person, by living an ethical life, by trying to be 
selfless in your service, you cannot reach the transcendental 
Reality. By meditation, you have to awake the power that is 
within you. Then you begin to see the play of God in the out- 
side world. Ethical life and service are an aid, but they are not 
an end in themselves. The end is to be one with God. Set aside 
some time each day to devote yourself completely and whole- 
heartedly to the contemplation of God. Think of nothing else 
but Him, and so the practice will become easy. 

Where should we think of God? We are not to pray to 
some external Being, who hangs in the sky. God is omnipres- 
ent. He is nearer than anything we know. He is within us. 
We have to feel that living Presence within the chamber of 
our own hearts. Go into your own heart and surrender your- 
self, there, to the Ruler of the universe, without whom you 
could not breathe or act, without whom there is no con- 
sciousness, no reality. Surrender yourself completely and 
wholeheartedly to Him. 

The Churches, Humanism and 


THIS is AN AGE of growing discouragement for all Human- 
ists. The belief that mankind can by amelioration of its cir- 
cumstances attain to permanent happiness in this world, has 
been given blow after blow in the last twenty-five years until 
it is hardly tenable by the least intelligent. The last hope of 
such: that though in the rest of the world this faith had 
failed, yet in one place, Russia, the light had dawned and 
was growing, that hope has been dimmed and darkened by a 
series of * 'successes" which have been more terrible than 
failure. The deliberate starving of some two million peasants, 
the ruthless executions of all who differed with the man at 
the top, and now the imperialistic lunges against a series of 
small neighbors such acts can only be held as proofs of an 
approaching millennium by people who have ceased to attach 
any meaning to words or any value to human life. 

This failure of Humanism is also reflected in a keen dis- 
couragement among many of the Churches. A large number 
of Protestant communions have increasingly during the last 
thirty years especially in this country come to identify their 
aims and their methods with those of Humanism. This is his- 
torically an interesting development. Ever since the Refor- 
mation, when Authority was denied to the Pope or the 
Councils of the Bishops of the Catholic Church, the basis of 
authority was shifted from the discussions and decisions of 
men (who might or not be inspired) to a Book. Authority 
had to be somewhere and as, to quote the Old Testament, 
there was no longer "Open Vision," the power of contempo- 
rary men to have the experience of God, the accounts of 
vision in the past had to take the place of vision in the 


VEDANTA For The Western World 424 

present. But once authority is confined to a Book that 
Book is bound to be examined critically. If a small arch 
is to carry such a weight it must be clear that its bricks and 
stones are strong enough to do so. As we all know, the ex- 
amination showed that what the Jews had claimed to be 
inspired and of unparalleled spiritual majesty showed itself 
to be of very mixed authority and doubtful strength. The 
Churches would not, however, have the courage, as the great 
Heresiarch Marcion pleaded, to throw over the "bronze age 
religion of the backward Semites" and cling only to the New 
Testament. This led to a first falling away of followers. But 
even had the Churches abandoned the Old Testament the 
difficulty would not have been surmounted. For a Church 
which attaches all its weight to the authenticity of certain ac- 
counts of a single life, a Church which tries to sanction the 
spiritual life and prove the reality of God and Heaven by 
the records made two thousand years ago of a small series 
of none-too-well-witnessed events, has to abide by the judg- 
ment of the textual critic and his verdict can hardly fail to 
be one of "Not Proven/' This was the position in which the 
Protestant Churches found themselves a generation ago. 
They had no authority for maintaining that a spiritual or 
even a moral life could be established against all doubt on 
the evidence that they could produce. They, therefore, began 
a retreat from that untenable position, a retreat all the more 
serious because it was no longer the open desertion by indi- 
viduals of the Churches they could no longer honestly sup- 
port but was a steady lapse of the Churches themselves from 
their own formularies and creeds. Without changing the 
letter, gradually all spirit was taken out of it. Miracles were 
dropped first, then the key miracles of Virgin Birth and 
Resurrection (the latter had been nodal to the first great 
Western missionary, St. Paul), and finally it was taken for 
granted that the future life should not be mentioned or the 
spiritual world but that the whole energy of the Churches 
should be shifted over to "social duties" to the improvement 
of physical conditions in the vague belief that when everyone 
was comfortable they would then either be able to find 
heaven for themselves or would find that they did not need 
it. Heaven would have become unnecessary to people who 

425 *fhe (Churches y Humanism and Spirituality 

had such a good time on earth. So the Protestant Churches 
have found themselves aligned with Humanism and as Hu- 
manism has suffered a slump, the bottom of which no one 
can yet see, the Churches too are having a fall which may 
shake them severely. Yet this shaking may in the end prove 
to be a very sensible blessing in disguise. The Churches have 
no real alliance with Humanism. They only took up this line 
of activity because they were privately or subconsciously con- 
vinced by the Humanists' argument that there was nothing 
in religion save its possible social value and that if they 
would drop their "other-worldliness" the practical social 
workers, the socialists and communists would see whether 
they could find some side-line use for die older organizations 
in the modern world. Now that these so-called realists are lost 
in a fog of disappointment and acrimonious recrimination, 
the Churches, who, after all, were never very much at home 
with their new allies, can draw off and think their position 
out. That charge of "other-worldliness," was it after all so 
shameful an accusation? What in the name of earth and 
heaven are Churches doing if they are not concerned with 
some other world than that which the manof-the-world calls 
the world of common sense and which even he is suspiciously 
aware is not the whole of the cosmos? The Churches should 
be other-worldly as long as this world means materialism, for 
materialism is such a lifeless abstraction of even present 
reality that no society can hold together which tries to make 
its picture of things in such a perspectiveless fashion. Yet the 
difficulty remains: granted that materialism is unworkable 
as a philosophy of life, at least of any social life, granted that 
even to attain the goal of Humanism there has to be a meta- 
physic and a way of life which outreaches and underspans 
the Humanities, just to know that is not enough. I may 
realize, I may accurately calculate the charge necessary to 
disrupt the nucleus of the atom and so to bring about trans- 
mutation. But, unless I can command that charge, the calcu- 
lations on paper, accurate to a volt though they may be, will 
bring me no nearer to my practical goal than the recipe for 
baking bread will feed a starving man. The first step, no 
doubt, for the Protestant Churches is to realize that Human- 
ism is both in itself stalling and is anyhow none of their busi- 

VEDANTA For The Western World 426 

ness. If it is going to have its funeral it need not be theirs. 
But the second step is quite as important. The Churches have 
not merely to remedy a mistake, to dissolve a partnership. 
They have to take their own initiative, find their own line 
and invite men to a new, constructive and really progressive 
fellowship. To do that they have to begin by remaking their 
philosophy. That is not to say that what they used to teach 
is not true. All the working parts of it, undoubtedly, are. 
What they have to do is, as one of the most active minds in 
the English Church has said, the late Dean Inge, to change 
from the religion of authority, authority based on far too 
narrow an evidential basis, to the religion of experience. Of 
course many doubt whether this may be done with any 
intellectual integrity. Poor as is the quality of the historical 
evidence on which they base their faith their fastidious 
knowledge of the kind of emotionalism which they fear is all 
that can be called the religion of experience, makes them 
prefer a withered and crumbling archaeological fact, to a 
warm and coarse-smelling gust of conviction. Yet the re- 
ligion of experience can be scientific, exact and even cool. If 
we leave it to the emotional it will naturally be "enthusi- 
astic" but if the intellectual will explore this avenue, taking 
all theii critical faculties with them, they will find that it is 
not they who will return empty-handed. On the contrary 
their finds will have about them a clarity and even hardness, 
and a detailed complexity in short just those characteristics 
of true discoveries, those characteristics which the intellec- 
tual rightly demands and the emotional can hardly ever sup- 
ply. This line of advance calls however for skill. An accurate 
technique is needed if accurate results are to follow. It is here 
that the Christian Churches will have to learn from India. 
It should not be too great an effort of condescension on their 
part. After all, in order to be up to date they, prematurely, 
jettisoned miracles, theology, and finally the whole essence 
of religion, the conviction that the spiritual world is the ulti- 
mate real and this only a significant shadow. Now in order 
to get back on the rails and to have a true faith, praxis, life 
and message they should not shrink from accepting the as- 
sistance of the wide and subtle metaphysic and the practical 
psychophysiological technique which Vedanta provides. 



EDUCATED PERSONS do not run much risk of succumbing to 
the more primitive forms of idolatry. They find it fairly easy 
to resist the temptation to believe that lumps of matter are 
charged with magical power, or that certain symbols and 
images are the very forms of spiritual entities and, as such, 
must be worshipped or propitiated. True, a great deal of 
fetishistic superstition survives even in these days of uni- 
versal compulsory education. But though it survives, it is not 
regarded as respectable; it is not accorded any kind of official 
recognition or philosophical sanction. Like alcohol and pros- 
titution, the primitive forms of idolatry are tolerated, but 
not approved. Their place in the accredited hierarchy of 
spiritual values is extremely low. 

Very different is the case with the developed and civilized 
forms of idolatry. These have achieved, not merely survival, 
but the highest respectability. The pastors and masters of 
the contemporary world are never tired of recommending 
these forms of idolatry. And not content with recommending 
the higher idolatry, many philosophers and many even of 
the modern world's religious leaders go out of their way to 
identify it with true belief and the worship of God. 

This is a deplorable state of affairs, but not at all a surpris- 
ing one. For, while it diminishes the risk of succumbing to 
primitive idolatry, education (at any rate of the kind now 
generally current) has a tendency to make the higher idolatry 
seem more attractive. The higher idolatry may be defined as 
the belief in, and worship of, human creation as though it 
were God. On its moral no less than on its intellectual side, 
current education is strictly humanistic and anti-transcen- 
dental. It discourages fetishism and primitive idolatry; but 
equally it discourages any preoccupation with spiritual 

VEDANTA For The Western World 4* 

Reality. Consequently, it is only to be expected that those 
who have been most thoroughly subjected to the educational 
process should be the most ardent exponents of the theory 
and practice of the higher idolatry. In academic circles, 
mystics are almost as rare as fetishists; but the enthusiastic 
devotees of some form of political or social idealism are as 
common as blackberries. Significantly enough, I have ob- 
served, when making use of university libraries, that books 
on spiritual religion were taken out much less frequently 
than in public libraries, frequented by persons who had not 
had the advantages, and the disadvantages, of advanced 

The many kinds of higher idolatry may be classified under 
three main headings, technological, political and moral. 
Technological idolatry is the most ingenuous and primitive 
of the three; for its devotees, like those of the lower idolatry, 
believe that their redemption and liberation depend upon 
material objects, namely machines and gadgets. Technological 
idolatry is the religion whose doctrines are explicitly or im- 
plicitly promulgated in the advertising pages of newspapers 
and magazinesthe source from which millions of men, 
women and children in the capitalist countries now derive 
their philosophy of life. In Soviet Russia, during the years of 
its industrialization, technological idolatry was promoted al- 
most to the rank of a state religion. More recently, the com- 
ing of war has greatly stimulated the cult in all the bellig- 
erent countries. Military success depends very largely on 
machines. Because this is so, machines tend to be credited 
with the power of bringing success in every sphere of activity, 
of solving all problems, social and personal as well as military 
and technical. So whole-hearted is the faith in technological 
idols that it is very hard to discover, in the popular thought 
of our time, any trace of the ancient and profoundly realistic 
doctrine of Hubris and Nemesis. To the Greeks, Hubris 
meant any kind of overweening and excess. When men or 
societies wen: too far, either in dominating other men and 
societies, or in exploiting the resources of nature to their 
own advantage, this overweening exhibition of pride had to 
be paid for. In a word, Hubris invited Nemesis. The idea is 
expressed very clearly and beautifully in "The Persians" of 

429 Idolatry 

Aeschylus. Xerxes is represented as displaying inordinate 
Hubris, not only by trying to conquer his neighbors by force 
of arms, but also by trying to bend nature to his will more 
than it is right for mortal man to do. For Aeschylus, Xerxes' 
bridging of the Hellespont is an act as full of Hubris as the 
invasion of Greece, and no less deserving of punishment at 
the hand of Nemesis. Today, our simple-hearted techno- 
logical idolaters seem to imagine that they can have all the 
advantages of an immensely elaborate industrial civilization 
without having to pay for them. 

Only a little less ingenuous are the political idolaters. For 
the worship of tangible material objects, these have substi- 
tuted the worship of social and economic organizations. Im- 
pose the right kind of organizations on human beings, and 
all their problems, from sin and unhappiness to sewage dis- 
posal and war, will be automatically solved. Once more we 
look almost in vain for a trace of that ancient wisdom which 
finds so memorable an expression in the "Tao Te Ching" 
the wisdom which recognizes (how realistically!) that organi- 
zations and laws are likely to do very little good where the 
organizers and law-makers on the one hand, the organized 
and law-obeyers on the other, are personally out of touch 
with Tao, the Way, the ultimate Reality behind phenomena. 
It is the great merit of the moral idolaters that they clearly 
recognize the need of individual reformation as a necessary 
prerequisite and condition of social reformation. They know 
that machines and organizations are instruments which may 
be used well or badly according as the users are personally 
better or worse. For the technological and political idolaters, 
the question of personal morality is secondary. In some not 
too distant futureso runs their creedmachines and organi- 
zations will be so perfect that human beings will also be 
perfect, because it will be impossible for them to be other- 
wise. Meanwhile, it is not necessary to bother too much 
about personal morality. All that is required is enough in- 
dustry, patience and ingenuity to go on producing more and 
better gadgets, and enough of these same virtues, along with 
a sufficiency of courage and ruthlessness, to work out suitable 
social and economic organizations and to impose them, by 
means of war or revolution, on the rest of the human race 

VEDANTA For The Western World 430 

entirely, of course, for the human race's benefit. The moral 
idolaters know very well that things are not quite so simple 
as this, and that, among the conditions of social reform, per- 
sonal reform must take one of the first places. Their mistake 
is to worship their own ethical ideals instead of worshipping 
God, to treat the acquisition of virtue as an end in itself and 
not as a means the necessary and indispensable condition of 
the unitive knowledge of God. 

"Fanaticism is idolatry/' (I am quoting from a most re- 
markable letter written by Thomas Arnold in 1836 to his old 
pupil and biographer-to-be, A. P. Stanley.) "Fanaticism is 
idolatry; and it has the moral evil of idolatry in it; that is, a 
fanatic worships something which is the creation of his own 
desires, and thus even his self-devotion in support of it is 
only an apparent self-devotion; for in fact it is making the 
parts of his nature or his mind, which he least values, offer 
sacrifice to that which he most values. The moral fault, as 
it appears to me, is the idolatrythe setting up of some idea 
which is most kindred to our own minds, and the putting it 
in the place of Christ, who alone cannot be made an idol 
and inspire idolatry, because He combines all ideas of perfec- 
tion, and exhibits them in their just harmony and combi- 
nation. Now, in my own mind, by its natural tendency that 
is, taking my mind at its best truth and justice would be 
the idols I should follow; and they would be idols, for they 
would not supply all the food which the mind wants, and 
whilst worshipping them, reverence and humility and ten- 
derness might very likely be forgotten. But Christ Himself 
includes at once truth and justice and all these other quali- 
ties too. . . . Narrowmindedness tends to wickedness, because 
it does not extend its watchfulness to every part of our 
moral nature and the neglect fosters the growth of wicked- 
ness in the parts so neglected." 

As a piece of psychological analysis this is admirable, so 
far as it goes. But it does not go quite far enough; for it 
omits all consideration of what has been called grace. Grace 
is that which is given when, and to the extent to which, a 
human being gives up his own self-will and abandons him- 
self, moment by moment, to the will of God. By grace our 
emptiness is fulfilled, our weakness reinforced, our depravity 

43 * Idolatry 

transformed. There are, of course, pseudo-graces as well as 
real graces the accessions of strength, for example, that fol- 
low self-devotion to some form of political or moral idolatry. 
To distinguish between the true grace and the false is often 
difficult; but as time and circumstances reveal the full extent 
of their consequences on the personality as a whole, discrimi- 
nation becomes possible even to observers having no special 
gifts of insight. Where the grace is genuinely "supernatural," 
an amelioration in one aspect of personality is not paid for 
by atrophy or deterioration in another. Virtue is achieved 
without having to be paid for by the hardness, fanaticism, 
uncharitableness and spiritual pride, which are the ordinary 
consequences of a course of stoical self-improvement by 
means of personal effort, either unassisted or reinforced by 
the pseudo-graces which are given when the individual de- 
votes himself to a cause, which is not God, but only a pro- 
jection of one of his own favourite ideas. The idolatrous 
worship of ethical values in and for themselves defeats its 
own object and defeats it not only because, as Arnold 
rightly insists, there is a lack of all-round watchfulness, but 
also and above all because even the highest form of moral 
idolatry is God-eclipsing, a positive guarantee that the idola- 
ter shall fail to achieve unitive knowledge of Reality. 


Is There "Progress? 


Werd als ein Kind, werd taub und blind 
Dein eignes Icht muss werden Nicht 
All Icht, all Nicht treib feme nur 
Lass S tatt } Lass Zeit, auch Bild lass weit 
Geh ohne Weg den Schmalen Steg 
So Kommst du auf der Wueste Spur. 
O Seele mein, aus Gott geh ein 
Sink als ein Icht in Goddes Nicht 
Sink in die ungegrundete Fluth 
Flieh ich von Dir, Du Kommst zu mir. 
Verlass ich mich, So find ich Dich 
O ueberwesentliches Gut! 

A child become, be deaf, blind, dumb 

Thy inmost I must wholly die 

All Aye All Nay but drive away 

Leave Time, leave Place, e'en Thought efface 

Thy way pursue with ne'er a clue 

So coms't thou on the Trackless Trace. 

O Soul of mine, through God untwine 

Sink as "I so" in Godhead's "No," 

Sink in the never-sounded Flood! 

Fly I from Thee, Thou coms't to me: 

Forsake I me so find I Thee, 

O inconceivable Good! 

THE ABOVE VERSE, here transliterated into English, was writ- 
ten probably in the thirteenth century somewhere in West- 
ern Germany. Perhaps today the consideration of these lines, 
of their date and place of origin (Statt and Zeit) is as striking 
a refutation as we could find of our still stubborn illusion of 


433 I s T^here *Pr ogress? 

Progress. It dies hard, this mistaken belief that just by living 
we become wise, that "The Thoughts of men are widened by 
the circling of the suns/' True, we have all been taught 

"It is not growing like a tree 
In bulk doth make man better be/ 9 

but during the nineteenth century Western man increasingly 
felt that if only he had more goods he himself would become 
better. That men who lacked machines could be really moral 
began to be doubted. That rapid advances in Physics and 
Economics might actually render people proportionately 
more ignorant of Psychology, of their own natures and vital 
values, such a notion was considered too absurd, too reac- 
tionary, too defeatist to need refutation. Yet such is the con- 
clusion which the history of the last twenty-five years has 
forced on us. The first part of the demonstration was purely 
shocking. We have had rubbed into us the fact that knowl- 
edge of means without an equal knowledge of ends leads 
simply to destruction accelerated by mechanism. If our 
possible experience stopped there we should indeed feel 
rightly hopeless. Here is our age which has patiently and 
ingeniously built up this vast tower, higher and stronger 
than that of Babel, to raise us forever above the flood 
and storm of material accident. Here are we, more cursed 
and stupid than Babel's builders, not merely, in a panic 
of hopeless misunderstanding, abandoning our prodigious 
labour, but turning on each other with all our gear and 
instruments in a frenzy of mutual homicide. There is how- 
ever a second part to this demonstration. It is not as 
spectacular, but it is as hopeful as the first part is despairing. 
The essence of this discovery lies in the fact that in the past 
there have been epochs when men may have been physically 
ignorant but were psychically highly informed. Although 
(perhaps, indeed, because) they were without a distracting 
knowledge of means, they could see clearly their Ends. A few 
years ago a couple of Italian archaeologists, anxious to return 
with artistic spoil from Thibet, entered that land of fossilized 
mahayan^ Buddhism. One of them had taken the trouble to 
learn some Sanskrit. He notes in his diary with naif surprise 

VEDANTA For The Western World 434 

that the first lama on whom he tried his knowledge, although 
the old man had seemed stupid and was obviously dirty and 
poor, suddenly dropped the mask and talked to him "the 
subtlest metaphysics." 

Those who have suggested that in a return to a simpler, 
more intentional, less distracted way of living we might re- 
balance our life have failed to find general support for two 
reasons. In the first place until the present international 
breakdown it was impossible for the ordinary man to believe 
that mere increase of technical skills would not cure his dis- 
contents. On this were agreed capitalist and communist, 
materialist and social service Christian. In the second place 
until the psychological knowledge which the Past possessed 
came to light, there could be no assurance that even if we 
did simplify our life and copy an earlier model we should 
acquire a new insight and power. We can face the truth 
about our own condition because we know there is a way out. 
Instead of the crude idea of inevitable material progress lead- 
ing us to a worldly Utopia we are coming to a true view of 
human history. We are now beginning to see that whenever 
men wish, with sufficient singleness of heart, they can come 
upon the "wuste spur"; when they seek, with a determination 
to give everything, they find. 

No doubt the Rhineland, seven centuries ago, would have 
seemed technically backward compared with all the skills 
and machines which proliferated there until yesterday 
when those trees of crooked knowledge bore their true fruit. 
Y^t in the thirteenth century those Germans knew more about 
man's nature and its needs than any who speak in Germany 
today. So though we must take a grave view of our present 
pass we need not be hopeless. For the ruin of our strength 
may mean the recovery of our sanity, the self-destruction of 
our means permit the re-emergence into the vision of man- 
kind of Ends worthy of a free man's service and worship 
and the disappearance of false knowledge lead to the re- 
discovery of the true. Whatever the outcome two facts are 
clear. The Germany which the world dreads is a phase: 
underneath, like a spring in the desert, flows that universal 
song of unity with the wholea stanza of which heads these 
paragraphs. And whether it rise again to the surface in our 

435 -fr jTA^* *Pr ogress? 

time or no, here under our own feet, the same current of life 
Eternal flows. Whatever the nations do, hctwever mankind 
may choose, each one of us can in himself dig down, find the 
living stream and know it "springing in himself to Life 

in Sverything 


"Through many a long life 
His discrimination ripens: 
He makes Me his refuge, 
Knows that Brahman is all. 
How rare are such great ones." 

So SAYS Sri Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita. To know that 
"Brahman is all" is the last word of religion. After many 
struggles, "through many a long life," when a man takes his 
utter refuge in God, when he is completely freed from ego, 
he realizes this ultimate truth and sees God in everything. 

"His heart is with Brahman, 
His eye in all things 
Sees only Brahman 
Equally present, 
Knows his own Atman 
In every creature, 
And all creation 
Within that Atman." 

How does a man become illumined? Where does he realize 
God and His presence? First he must learn to look within, 
and learn to see the Infinite Presence within his own At- 
man; for only when he learns to see God and the whole of 
creation within himself is he able to see that one Infinite 
God equally and infinitely present everywhere in all crea- 
tures and in the whole of creation. 

"That Yogi sees me in all things, 
And all things within me." 


"Absorbed in Brahman 
He overcomes the world even here, 
Alive in the world." 

This is the point we should note. An illumined soul who is 
absorbed in the consciousness of God and sees His Infinite 
Presence in everything "overcomes the world." What is our 
experience of the world? We experience birth and death, 
happiness and misery. We experience the shifting, changing 
world. The i